Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Silky Lemon Orzo

Sometimes the simplest recipes can blow you away.  This orzo recipe is just that - it's so perfect given how uncomplicated it is.  And moreover, I knew I had to put it on the blog ASAP since so many orzo recipes are cooked very, very differently.

For a little background, the other night we were cooking steak and I was combing my cupboard to figure out side dishes.  I noticed we had some orzo, which I probably haven't cooked with in a year or more, but I decided to use it since I was getting tired of our usual sides.  I googled the orzo to water ratio, and to my surprise, the vast majority of the recipes call for you to cook orzo in a large pot of boiling water, then strain it, then use the cooked orzo in whatever preparation you're looking for.

But in my mind, I really felt like I wanted to cook it more like rice than like pasta.  I wanted the orzo to soak up all the water and keep all the starch that is often lost when tossing out pasta water.

I found a lone recipe that finally gave me what I wanted (1 cup orzo to 2.5 cups water, but we'll get to that in a bit) - but the recipe itself was incredibly basic.  It was just orzo, water, butter.  Since we were having steaks, I decided I wanted more acid in a side dish to compliment the fat of the steak.  And so using only the orzo:water ratio as a guide, I made the dish using the flavors I was looking for.

My husband and I both took a bite and realized it was something truly special.

By cooking the orzo with a specific ratio of water to pasta, all the starch that usually transfers into the pasta water is retained and creates this incredibly silky, almost creamy, texture on the dish.  The lemon was just enough, but not too much, to bring some brightness to the pasta, and the chicken stock I used brought just enough salt and depth of flavor.  And finally, using fresh herbs to finish really brought the whole dish together.

Needless to say, we absolutely could not get enough.  The pasta was al dente, the mouthfeel of the starchy "sauce" that remained after cooking was incredible, and the flavor was a perfect balance.  This is going to be a mainstay in our household going forward for sure.


Silky Lemon Orzo


Silky Lemon Orzo

1 tbs olive oil
1 cup orzo
2.5 cups chicken broth
Pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Heat the olive oil in a small stockpot on medium-high heat.  Add the orzo and stir continuously, toasting the orzo until about 50% of the "grains" have browned.

Remove from heat and carefully add the chicken broth.  Return to heat and bring to a boil.  Boil on medium heat for 10 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Stir in pepper and lemon juice.  Cover and remove from heat and let sit undisturbed for 7 minutes.

Uncover and add the fresh herbs and stir until all the herbs are incorporated and they begin to brighten/wilt a little from the heat.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Yogurt-marinated chicken

We recently decided to branch out of our usual chicken marinades, and try a yogurt-based marinade.  I was familiar with this type of marinade, and certainly know that the yogurt can be great at tenderizing the chicken.

When searching for recipes, I found myself drawn to those that had good herb impact and lots of flavor from more than just the yogurt.  As always, I drew inspiration from a few different recipes, and made it my own.

We have done it with chicken tenders and with chicken thighs, and I must say, I was a huge fan of the thighs!  They get so tender and even when grilled and charred, they retained wonderful flavor and texture without toughening up.  That said, the chicken tenders were great as well, and I think you could use this marinade on just about any type of cut!

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken

1 17.5oz (500g) tub of full fat Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
1 small bunch cilantro, including stems
1/2 large onion, quartered
1/2 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves
Juice of half a lemon
1 1-inch knob of ginger, peeled
1 tbs garam masala
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Throw everything in a food processor or blender and puree it all into a creamy marinade.  Pour over chicken cuts of your choice and cover and chill in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

When you're ready to begin cooking, take the chicken out of the fridge and let warm up for 15 minuts on the counter.  Then, using your hands, take each chicken piece out of the marinade and scrape off some of the excess marinade to avoid unnecessary mess and burning.

Grill the chicken on a grill on medium-high heat.  Turn the chicken a few times and cook through.  Ideally, get a little bit of char on the chicken to enhance the grilled flavor.  Serve with sides of your choice - I loved some fresh grilled tomatoes and turmeric-spiced rice.


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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Popovers

Popovers

This past weekend, my parents were in town visiting for Easter, and we decided to make some popovers.  I went through a brief popover phase a few years ago, but then they fell out of my rotation.  I had a hankering for them again recently, and remembered how I used to make them in muffin tins, but always wanted to try them properly in a popover pan.  I quickly ordered one off of Amazon, and I must say it makes a big difference!

We decided to make two versions - one plain, and one topped with parmesan and fresh thyme.  The plain popovers are great with some jam, and the savory popovers are perfect with just a little butter.


Basic Popovers

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Put the popover pan in the oven (if it sits awkwardly on the rack, set it on a baking sheet) to warm the pan with the oven.

Whisk the eggs in a large bowl and set aside.

Warm the milk, cream, and salt slowly on the stove until the temperature reaches approximately 125 degrees.

Slowly pour the milk mixture into the eggs while continuing to whisk.  Don't incorporate too quickly or the eggs will begin to scramble.

Sift the 2 cups of flour into the egg/milk mixture, and gently incorporate just until there are no large lumps left.  Do not over-whisk or the popovers will be dense and flat.

Remove the popover pan from the oven.  At this point, I used a good non-stick popover pan, so I didn't need to grease/butter the cups.  However if you don't have a non-stick, definitely generously butter or spray your cups.  Then use a small pitcher or a turkey baster (I'm telling you, this works!) to fill each cup half-full with batter, and no more.  Work quickly to avoid the pan cooling too much.

If you are topping the popovers with any savory items such as cheese and herbs, add them now to the top of the batter in each cup.

Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn down to 350 and bake for another ~10 minutes, or until the outside is brown.  Make sure not to open the oven during the cooking process, or the popovers will begin to deflate.  

Remove the pan from the oven and serve popovers immediately.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Sausage and Kale Stew

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Chris and I recently started an 8-week whole food / paleo-ish diet as part of his crossfit gym's challenge, and really it's been a great cooking challenge for us.  Due to various personal reasons, we haven't been great about cooking adventurously in the past year, hence the lack of posts here.  Although we didn't go so far as to stop cooking altogether and live off of takeout (don't get me wrong, I was tempted), we did rely too heavily on starches, and our meals consistently were 70% starch, 20% meat, 10% veggie, and the veggie was really out of sheer obligation.

Taking the eating challenge seriously has been a fantastic way to catapult us outside of our food rut, and it's exactly what we needed.

Today we made a sausage and kale stew that was so satisfying, so flavorful, and so following the new eating rules, that I couldn't help but share it.  And moreover, we completely made it up based on flavors that we knew would go well together and recipes we had read in the past, so it was a great exercise of getting us back into the fun and adventure of cooking.

Sausage and Kale Stew

Serves 4-6

1.5 lbs ground Italian pork sausage (find a paleo-friendly brand if you're eating that way)
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 large red bell pepper, largely diced
1 28oz can whole tomatoes
5 cups water
1 bunch curly kale, ribs removed, coarsely chopped

To taste:
Salt
Pepper
Italian seasoning
Red pepper flakes


Cook the sausage, breaking it up as much as possible.  As it is cooking, add the chopped fresh rosemary and red pepper flakes and incorporate.  When the sausage is nearly cooked through, add the onion, shallots, and garlic.  Cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, until the onions are softened.  Add the bell pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Pour the liquid from the can of whole tomatoes to the pot, and then separately squeeze the juice from the tomatoes and lightly chop the flesh.  Put the remaining flesh and juice from the tomatoes into the stew and stir.  Add the water, salt, and pepper, and bring to a light boil.  The amount of salt and pepper you need will depend on the strength of seasoning already in your sausage of choice.  Add more italian seasoning to taste as well.  Put a top on the stew and let it lightly simmer for 1 hour.

After an hour, add the chopped kale to the pot, and stir.  Return the lid and let the kale cook down slightly for 10 minutes.

Serve in a large bowl and enjoy, especially on a snowy day like we're having today!

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