Fennel Orzotto with Roasted Baby Eggplants (or Chicken) – 25/67

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Today (well, Friday, when I wrote this), the sky is blue, the sun is shining, and the weather feels like it should for September. This morning, students all over the country went to climate strikes, and let the world know they aren’t afraid to use their voices. Earlier this week, Elizabeth Warren held a rally in Washington Square Park and talked about how she’s here because of women’s work. And she took selfies with the crowd for 4 hours. And she had people in the crowd introduce themselves to their neighbors (the best way to quickly form community, imho). I can’t help but be excited. (Feel free to listen to this episode of The Daily and then talk about it with me.) Change and plans and revolt are in the air. 

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Also today, I had my first rehearsal for a new kid’s puppet show I’m directing. It felt like the right group of humans in the room, and we joked around about Ritz the Rat (“The name’s Ritz, Puttin’ on The”) and silly songs. It was goofy and fun and optimistic. Today I’m marginally hung over from drinking two carafes of wine last night with friends over pizza and burrata. Today I have happily consumed leftovers from Daniel’s last night solo cooking adventure, a rice-bean-veggie instant pot affair, even though it includes some little pieces of chicken. I have come to accept I am more flexitarian than vegetarian these days. I will not go out of my way to order or buy meat. But if someone has already purchased it and made it, I don’t have to be as strict, especially when it means free lunch. I’m still not particularly interested in cooking chicken (and that’s really the only meat I’d broach the subject about), but please don’t get mad at me for eating a soup dumpling and still calling myself mostly a vegetarian. (Nobody actually does this, everyone I know is quite even-keeled and open-minded, I’m just putting it out there as a generality.) I realize the earth doesn’t need more meat eaters, and I never want it to be a regular part of my diet. But also, meat dumplings taste better than veggie dumplings. 

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All this to say, I don’t mind a couple Daniel-made chicken-adjacent ingredients. A cup of chicken broth goes far in an otherwise vegetarian dish, and usually makes Daniel more excited to eat whatever it is we’re cooking. I was okay eating this orzo, even though it was browned in chicken fat. I know this isn’t the case for real vegetarians, and apologize if I’ve offended you or lead you astray. So I give the caveat of this delicious recipe — I’ve only made the meaty version of the orzotto (which is, uh, orzo cooked like risotto). And I loved it. So much flavor! However I’m sure it would be equally delicious as a purely veggie main, using just butter or some olive oil in the early steps. The eggplant was a wonderful chicken replacement. Let me know if you try it. 

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three years ago: miso mizuna soup
five years ago: spicy micheladas

Fennel Orzotto with Roasted Baby Eggplants (or Chicken) 

thank you Molly for this delicious dinner recipe! (that I totally hacked to make it more veg-adjacent)

Baby Eggplant – a riff on this real simple recipe 

2 baby eggplants
1 lemon, half in slices, half juiced
Herb sprigs such as thyme, oregano, or rosemary
A couple sliced garlic cloves
Olive oil
s&p

Preheat oven to 450F. Make a slit in your eggplants, and stuff with lemon and garlic and herbs if you got them. Drizzle with half a lemon’s worth of juice and some olive oil. Liberally salt and pepper. Place in a small dish and cover with foil. Roast for 40ish minutes, flipping occasionally, until puckery and soft and tender. Take foil off for last 5 minutes of cooking.

 Chicken and Fennel Orzotto 

2 tablespoons butter
3 chicken legs, bone-in and skin-on (This recipe originally called for 6 pieces of chicken, but I decided the eggplants were a good sub for half the chicken. All other amounts from Molly’s original recipe have remained) 

1 fennel bulb, chopped small (fronds chopped and reserved for garnish)
1 leek, white and pale green parts, in half moons
1 cup dried orzo
⅓ cup dry white wine
2½ cups broth
Zest and juice from half a lemon, plus extra wedges to serve
Chopped fresh parsley
s&p

(This is the part about Chicken)

Preheat oven to 400F. 

Melt butter in a biggish cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper your chicken legs. Place chicken in pan, skin side down. Make sure chicken is in a single layer. If it doesn’t all fit, nestle in new pieces when old ones have slightly shrunk. Cook until meat is opaque around the edges and skin is deeply golden, about 6-7 minutes. Turn chicken so the skin side is up, and transfer skillet to oven, where your eggplant may already be cooking. If so, turn oven down to 400 for this part. Bake until chicken is cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Or until a sticky pokey thing says 160F. Transfer chicken pieces to a plate. Turn oven back up to 450F if roasting eggplant. 

(Start here for Veg Orzotto)

Return skillet to medium heat. (If veg version, add EVOO or a nub of butter.) Add fennel and leek, sprinkle with salt, and saute for about 5 minutes. Veggies should be starting to turn golden brown. Add orzo and toast for a couple minutes, or until evenly browned. 

Deglaze the pan with wine and cook for some moments, until absorbed. Add broth in half cup increments, stirring fairly frequently. Wait until each dose is mostly absorbed before adding the next half cupful. Don’t let the pan get too dry. Taste around 2 cups of broth to see if orzo is cooked, if not, keep adding broth until it’s al dente. This process should take 10-15 minutes. 

Remove from heat. Add salt and pepper to your liking, and lemon juice and zest. Place chicken and/or eggplant on top. Sprinkle with chopped fennel fronds and parsley. Serve with lemon wedges. 

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great leftovers!

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A Pile of Apple Cake – 24/67

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The problem with claiming you’re good at baking is that people expect you to be good at baking. Ugh. I’ve been setting expectations too high. Nothing good can come of that! 

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So okay, I admit, this cake did not come out of the bundt pan as I would have wished. But! It still tastes amazing. Amazing enough to publicly share on the internet and admit to my vast readership. So, as they’d say on the Great British Bake Off, flavors and texture wonderful, looks like absolute shite. (Do they say that? I haven’t watched it in a couple seasons, but it seems more or less right…)

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We brought this cake pile to a housewarming party. Daniel thought I should dump it into a bowl and call it a crumble, but I insisted on the cake carrying case, with a sad pile of cake roughly in the shape of a bundt. You could still see a couple layers of cake – apples – cake, after all. We definitely got some funny glances from passersby, who looked expectantly into our cake carrying thing (I feel like you have to be pretty proud of your cake to schlep it through the streets of New York usually), expecting to see a masterpiece. And they were instead greeted by a crumbling tower of artfully placed could-be-cake. I made Daniel carry the case. I was too embarrassed. 😦 

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However! The cake was delightfully consumed! And no needs for plates when it looks like this, everyone just dug in with forks or fingers, as if it was pull apart bread. And the hosts even wanted to keep leftovers! I had my leftovers the next day microwaved with ice cream. Could’ve been way worse. So! Make this. But grease TF outta that pan. 

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one night ago: the amazing pasta alla norma from vegetables illustrated was last night’s really really good dinner 
another thing I’ve been cooking: caramelize a shredded zucchini with garlic and olive oil, mix in parmesan, put on pumpernickel toast, top with a fried egg OMG SO GOOD
three years ago: soy-dashi simmered kabocha squash
four years ago: tomatillo peach salsa 

Apple Cake

from my lovely cousin (in-law?) Heidi. Sorry for messing up something beautiful!

6 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced ( a mix of varieties is nice)
5 tablespoons + 2 cups sugar
5 teaspoons cinnamon
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral oil
4 eggs
½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour (I used spray and IT DID NOT WORK!) a bundt pan. Use a non-decorative bundt pan, for gods sake. Or a tube pan, which I’ve never used, but I think would be perfect for this. Don’t skimp!!

In a big bowl, mix together apple slices, 5 tablespoons sugar, and the cinnamon. Set aside.

In another big bowl, mix together the flour, remaining 2 cups sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the middle and add the oil, eggs, OJ, and vanilla. Mix everything until well blended. A wooden spoon worked great for this task. 

Spoon ⅓ of the batter into your prepared pan. Add half the apples. Then another layer of batter, the rest of the apples, and finish with batter. (I couldn’t fit all the apples!)

Bake for an hour and a half. Cake should be brown but not dark. Let cool in pan for at least half an hour before removing from pan. Good luck. 

 
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Israeli Salad – 23/67

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This salad encompasses many of my favorite things. 

1. My CSA. Yes yes, I know, I have waxed not-so-eloquently on here before about the joy I get from receiving a local fruit and veggie haul each week. This year’s CSA, in our new neighborhood, is even more bountiful than previous versions. We have been loving their tomato varieties, pepper assortments, greens, corn, beans, squashes, herbs, melons, and more all summer. This salad, though this time around not fully comprised of CSA goodies, is indicative of the type of salads I’ve been loving all summer. (team #nolettuceinsalads) If you let me ramble about vegetables, I will.

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2. My obsession with Yotam Ottolenghi. I have also droned on on here ad nauseam about my adoration of celebrity chef Ottolenghi. I have 3 of his cookbooks, which I regularly look through and which often end up open in the middle of our living room. I follow him and his hashtag on Instagram. We saw him talk a year ago-ish, which was a highlight of the year. He has a basic chopped tomato salad recipe in Simple, where he says “The addition of tahini paste to a familiar tomato and cucumber salad is a revelation.” Okay, hyperbolic much, Mr. Ottolenghi? But, uh, he’s right. It’s so good. I added tahini to this one and don’t regret a thing.

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3. New shiny technology. This if my first post written on my shiny new computer! I haven’t had my own new computer since at least 2012, and that one unfortunately met a quick demise a year or so later by cup of water 😦 Since then, I’ve been cycling through Daniel’s hand-me-downs. It feels so nice to have my own, brand new computer to set up and get to know. Hopefully it lasts for a good long while because apple has enough money. (I also just got a new phone, so I’m enjoying fast internet connection and RAM speeds (am I using that word right?) all over the place.)

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4. My grandma! Love you! Truly one of my favorite cooks, who always knows how to bring community together through food and care. I have had this salad, or a variation, at a hundred casual dinners and gatherings. It’s so homey, yet the dressing is bracing and assertive. I wouldn’t have expected it’s a mixture of lemon juice and regular old white vinegar. But it’s going to be a go-to from here on out. Glad to have this version in my repertoire. 

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one and two years ago: nothing of note, but I made this cheesy zucchini orzo from half baked harvest for dinner the other night and dang that was a great dinner
three years ago:
chopped summer salad with feta, mint, and lime (made this for dinner a couple nights ago)
four years ago: roasted green pepper and smoked gouda pasta
five years ago: roasted radish and pepper pizza and caramelized fennel with dill and goat cheese (another Ottolenghi-inspired dish!) 

Israeli Salad

A la my grandma, plus Ottolenghi 

Salad
2 cucumbers, peeled, quartered the long way, some seeds removed, and chopped small
3 tomatoes, chopped (I added extra baby tomatoes because yum they’re my favorite)
1 red onion, diced (Vidalia would also be good)
1 bell pepper, chopped (red is sweeter than green, and looks pretty!)

Dressing
⅓ cup olive oil
⅓ cup white vinegar
juice from 1½ lemons (¼ cup)
generous portions of salt and pepper and dried oregano
Small handful freshly chopped parsley,
1 ground up large garlic clove (or garlic powder)

Put all salad veggies in a big bowl.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine all dressing ingredients thoroughly with a whisk. Taste and adjust as needed.

Add dressing to salad veggies and toss toss toss. Now this is a perfect side dish! To bulk it up a bit:

To make it extra
Add feta. Top with za’atar and a swirl of tahini.
OR boil up about a cup of orzo. Add to veggies. Lemony Israeli Pasta Salad!
OR both!