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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Roasted Green Pepper and Smoked Gouda Pasta

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In college I was sort of obsessed with this one roasted red pepper and smoked gouda soup. They only served it at one of the obscure “cafe”-style dining facilities on campus (confusingly called The Spa because of local history and not due to any imminent massages). I made it a habit to go through The Spa every couple of days in search of this soup. It was my Moby Dick, my elusive prize, a fattening and mouthwatering anticipation that rarely landed. But on those cold Saratoga days, when the stars aligned and the soup flowed free and hearty (well, free with an asterisk, as is everything in college, as in you’ve already paid for it…times 7), and I trudged through the snow to yet another rehearsal at the faraway theater building with a small bowl tucked into my overflowing bag, this soup was everything.

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There’s no shying away from the fat content of this recipe. We have butter, heavy cream, and cheese, all in healthy quantities. And by healthy I mean delicious. This is food that tastes goooood. So serve with a salad, go on a long bike ride later, and quit dwelling on it. And maybe only make it when you have a huge CSA haul of green peppers and you’re not sure you’ve ever even bought a green one before (sorry, greenies, I just love the red ones too much).

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What this sauce has in taste it lacks in beauty. I mean, have you ever even heard of a roasted green pepper recipe? Roasted reds, yes, in soups, pasta sauces, condiments, you name it. But a quick google search for “roasted green pepper pasta sauce” is fairly lackluster, both in recipe quantity and the beauty factor of those that do appear. Forgive the pallid sheen, the light gray (could that count as green?) countenance, the, dare I say, mucus-y apparition in front of you.

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I implore you to give the greenies a chance! It’s not their fault that red peppers are so dang sexy and make such good soup. Even if the green peppers don’t do it for you, hopefully the smoked gouda changes your mind. And I promise you don’t have to be learning Chekhov lines in the student center at 2 am for the roasted pepper and smoked gouda combo to win you over. This version is perky and summery, quick and delicious. Try it and see!  

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one year ago: caramelized fennel with dill and goat cheese (swoon) and a hop down memory lane of all the delicious things I ate last summer

Roasted Green Pepper and Smoked Gouda Pasta

adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

3 green peppers
pasta, about half a box
4 T butter, divided
1 small red onion, diced (or a normal yellow one)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t white wine vinegar
¾ t sugar
¾ cup – 1 cup veggie broth
2-4 T heavy cream
3 T fresh parsley, chopped
½ c smoked gouda, thin slices or grated
s&p

To roast peppers: turn burner to a medium flame. Place one pepper directly on the flame. Cook for about 5 minutes, rotating frequently, until pepper skin is black and puckery and pepper itself is soft and starting to implode. Repeat for remaining peppers. Wrap individually in foil and and set aside for about 10 minutes, or until cool. Use your fingers to easily rub off skins. It’s fine to leave a bit still attached, it just adds depth of flavor! Cut into big strips and set aside.

Meanwhile, make pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and add 2 T butter. When melted and shimmery, add onion and garlic and cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until onion just begins to change color.  Add roasted pepper strips and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Transfer onion/pepper mixture to a food processor and process until just blended.

Heat the remaining 2 T butter in the same saute pan. Add pulverized onion/pepper mixture, white wine vinegar, sugar, s&p, and veggie broth. Start with ¾ c broth and add more if you want a thinner sauce (remember it will thicken just a bit when you add cream later.) Stir. Cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add heavy cream and stir to combine. I used 2 T and found it plenty creamy but feel free to keep dolling it out. Yum. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.

Add pasta, smoked gouda, and parsley into pepper sauce and stir until cheese melts and pasta is coated evenly. Serve with extra cheese and parsley.

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