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!

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! 

Peach Blueberry Cobbler – 19/67

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How I did the heatwave on Saturday:

  • Woke up early to bake cobbler 
  • Blasted the AC
  • Until Daniel tried to vaccuum at the same time and we blew a fuse and then couldn’t find our fuse box and our landlord was on the West Coast and also didn’t know where our fuse box was and finally we found it in our downstairs neighbor’s apartment, unlabeled. It was eventually fixed. (By my husband.) (He wanted me to add that). 
  • Also made caponata (similar to this recipe), capusta (coming soon!), a cucumber salad, and sangria. Daniel made amazing spicy caramel peanut brittle. Busy kitchen day.
  • Took the train to Queens to see the play I directed in a festival
  • Hosted 10 people at our apartment for a potluck party
  • Bought and consumed lots of ice cream

It was a great day but it was not ideal heatwave activities.

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So, how I did the heatwave on Sunday:

  • Sat inside, ate leftovers, washed dishes
  • Consumed lots of ice cream

Sunday was a good day.  

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This is the dessert you need to make tonight. It’s so fast, so bright, so perfectly summery. And it seems incredibly adaptable, though I’ve only made it this once. The recipe calls for two cups peaches — I used three peaches, which was a little more. And then it called for one cup of blueberries, which didn’t feel like enough blueberries so I just kept adding a couple more at a time, until I think I ended up doubling it. Oops. It was still perfect. 

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Olivia gave me this recipe with the comment “the bestest dessert”. She is not lying. This thing won the potluck last night. It’s totally worth turning on your oven for, promise. 

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other blueberry desserts: simple lemon blueberry cake with lemon cream + celebration blueberry cake with ginger cream cheese frosting

other peach things (tis the season): peach tomatillo salsa + peach black bean sweet potato tacos

four years ago: collard greens tomato sauce with spaghetti
five years ago: cilantro quinoa soup with seared shrimp and corn

Peach Blueberry Cobbler

thanks to Olivia’s grandma, who seems like a pretty amazing lady, for this one. thanks for sharing your family recipes! 

¾ cup sugar + 2 tablespoons, divided
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch (or potato starch)
½ cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about half a lemon)
2 cups fresh peaches, sliced and peeled if you want to (about 3 peaches)
1 cup blueberries
1 cup flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup milk
¼ cup butter, softened and cut into chunks
½ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated is best!)

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a medium saucepan, combine ¼ cup sugar, brown sugar, cornstarch, and water. Stir over medium heat until the mixture thickens, about two minutes. Take off of heat and add lemon juice, peaches, and berries. Stir well to coat. Tip into a 2 quart baking dish (is what the recipe said. I used a 9-inch square baking pan.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder and salt. Give a quick mix. Add milk and softened butter. Use mixer to mix everything together at medium speed for about 4-5 minutes, until fluffy and few butter chunks remain. (This would be fine with a hand held beater too.) Dollop spoonfuls of this cookie dough over the fruit. 

Mix together remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar and nutmeg. Sprinkle on top of cookie dollops. 

Bake in your preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, until top is browned evenly and fruit is bubbling. I served with vanilla ice cream and 9 people devoured it in the blink of an eye. 
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Simple Lemon Berry Cake with Lemon Cream – 12/67

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The past weekend has felt approximately two weeks long. I feel like I just need to document it all so I remember in 20 years what a lazy “stay at home” long weekend was like right before I turned 30. Thanks for joining me for this xanga entry! 

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Friday – Went to grocery store, casually made this cake for tomorrow’s BBQ, meandered to local bookstore and ended up with a copy of Indian-ish which I cannot WAIT to cook from, met friends at a bar and bragged about my new cookbook. Then came home and made a riff on this soba tofu bowl for a dear friend who came over for dinner. After she left, friend from Boston arrived to stay the weekend. Late night catch-up ensued.

IMG_036586F1A670-F948-441E-A6A3-98C406F06CD6Saturday – Coffee and bagels, then a yoga class. Don’t recommend that order. Took ferry(!) to Astoria for lovely rooftop soiree. Brought cake, with frosting in its own refrigerator bag. Not the easiest cake to travel with, but definitely not the worst. Ate my weight in salads and dips and veggie burger (just one, to the chagrin of the hosting couple who are now left with three mediocre frozen patties). Left BBQ early to rush to BAM for a DanceAfrica performance that blew my mind. Home for frozen watermelon drinks and another late night.

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Sunday – brunch and omg this weekend is killing me. How do people maintain this lifestyle? Ask questions later! Let’s go into the city! For Chinatown noodles, a crowded salsa bar, and cocktails around the corner. Another late night.

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Monady – byyye friend, have a safe drive, and oh shit we’re supposed to bring things to a BBQ. I didn’t prepare cake in advance, dang. Whipped together this really delicious artichoke white bean dip (but parsley instead of basil because I thought it went better) and Ottolenghi’s gingery cucumber salad from Plenty, which I thought would complement the various izakaya-style organ meats being grilled. (I cannot attest to its success in doing that, but it was mostly consumed, so I’ll consider it a success.) Then I fell into a stupor on our couch.

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I’m exhausted. And now I go to work. xo, gossip girl.

IMG_2118IMG_2120A couple things about this cake — this is a really easy and really delicious cake to whip together at the last moment if you know someone is coming over. The only tricky ingredient it has is pre-made lemon curd. I bought the Bonne Maman variety, which I’ve been eating with a spoon ever since. It makes a surprisingly luscious topping when beat with fresh whipped cream. Also, I didn’t feel like splurging on fresh berries, as I knew we had a bunch of frozen ones in the fridge. I ended up with half a cup of frozen blueberries, then picked the other half cup out of a bag of mixed frozen berries. A couple blackberries made it in too. They were also delicious. No need to be picky about your fruits. I forgot the demerera sugar on top, but don’t think I missed it.

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I talked about a different blueberry lemon cake recipe on here some years ago. That one is a decadent layer birthday cake, not to be confused with this delicate, weekday-afternoon-appropriate version. Both are hella delicious.

Simple Blueberry Lemon Cake with Lemon Cream aka the Best Psuedo-Frosting

from my friend Liz!

1 cup flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup sugar
zest of one lemon (about 1 ½ teaspoons)
½ stick (4 tablespoons) butter, room temp
½ teaspoon (or a bit more) pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (whole or 2%)
¼ cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (no need to thaw)
1 ½ tablespoons turbinado sugar (I forgot this…)
fresh berries to serve (optional)

Lemon Cream

I doubled the original recipe and did not regret it. This is the ratio I used —

½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons store-bought lemon curd

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch cake pan (I used springform but it isn’t necessary). Cut out a circle of parchment paper for the bottom of the pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Put the sugar and lemon zest in a big bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix together with your fingertips to combine, until the mixture is sand-like and smells like lemon candy. Add the butter and beat for 3ish minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. (I used my Kitchenaid but hand mixer should work fine.) Beat in vanilla and the egg until combined. Add yogurt and beat well.

At low speed, beat in half the flour. Then add milk and beat until just combined. Add rest of the flour and mix until just combined.

Pour batter evenly into prepared cake pan. Scatter berries on top and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cake is golden-brown and a tester comes out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes in pan, then invert onto a rack. Peel off parchment and let cool all the way. Invert again onto a nice plate.

Meanwhile, back with your mixer, beat together the whipped cream and the lemon curd until creamy and thick. This took 3ish minutes for me. Texture should be the consistency of yogurt. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

Dollop lemon cream on top of completely cooled cake. Top with fresh berries, if you’d like. Let your guests gush over how good this simple cake is.

Liz’s notes:

  • You can substitute ½ cup buttermilk for the yogurt and milk
  • This cake bakes quickly. (true!) Start checking it at 20 minutes.
  • Cake can be made one day in advance — just wrap it well in saran wrap overnight. Lemon curd can be made 8 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

Blueberry Lemon Buttermilk Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

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You know, I’ve always been averse to baking professionally because, well, I’ve already tried to turn one of my passions into a career and I’m not sure I’m the better for it (sarcastic thanks to high school theater teachers who gave me too much encouragement).  Also I like having a stress reliever which doesn’t keep me up at night, memorizing lines and reevaluating life choices. AND which tastes delicious and makes people happy. Seriously, everyone likes being made a cake. Not everyone likes sitting through experimental clowning meditations on life and Brecht.

Daniel had a birthday and so of course I made a cake (also we’re going to a knife skills class today that I couldn’t be more excited about!). Mmm. The flavor combination came from a blueberry-ginger-almond biscotti we were selling at work and that everyone raved about. But alas, as I am almond-digesting deficient, I had to translate the flavor combo to an acceptable alternative. And hence was born the blueberry (and lemon) buttermilk cake with ginger (cream cheese) frosting. The parts in parenthesis were not part of the original plan but I’m glad they finagled their way in to the final picture.

I did no innovating here, just combined recipes scourged from across the vast blogosphere. Thank you, baking blog ladies, for creating such lovely recipes! I got the layer cake recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction (it stayed moist for DAYS!), and the fresh ginger frosting from blahnik baker.  No need for me to post their already-perfect recipes, but I urge you to check them out and then combine them! And then cover the result with crystallized ginger and invite a bunch of friends over.

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And while I’m at it, here’s the lovely cake I made myself for my birthday last August — Joy the Baker’s oreo-strawberry bonanza piled high with slightly-too-sweet oreo buttercream frosting. Everyone needs cake on their birthdays, even (especially) if you make it yourself. Even my dentist agrees, who gave me a slice of cake after my 9 am birthday dental session! I think he felt really, really bad.

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I think I’ll stay an amateur cake maker for now, but I have a pretty good photo collection going on if I change my mind someday, right??

Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

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A February defined by performance, something a bit rare these days. A month full of those moments–when an audience member is excited with you, sad with you, surprised by you. When you feel your intentions and delivery and energy hit their mark and transform.

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This past month I’ve given a handful of performances of Amelia and Her Paper Tigers, a theatre for young audiences production I co-created about Amelia Earhart. It’s moments like when the little girl in the front row turns 180 degrees around in her chair to follow a prop going into the audience and then gasps with delight, or when a seasoned older theater-goer sheds a tear as Amelia stilts offstage for the last time and we are all left to wonder about her final moments and her legacy, that keep the acting dream alive. It’s so exciting to breathe life into a story I find so compelling. (Read more here!)

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Also this month, Cuban salsa has strengthened its grasp on my heartstrings (and schedule). That infectious audience energy when we nail an up-in-the-air move, or perform a long turn pattern in complete synchronization, or break into an intricate group move is so necessary for a good performance. We recently came back from San Francisco, where we had the opportunity to perform for what felt for the entire Cuban Salsa world. Hundreds of people from all over the country, and Mexico, Cuba, Italy, etc. The energy of this event was pure electricity and camaraderie; everyone excited to learn, observe, meet people, and, of course, dance. In the past week I’ve taken ladies rumba styling, salsa with Afro, group rueda classes, advanced casino partnering, ladies suelta, and most recently a crash course on son from the masters, Yanek and Karelia. I’m excited by how far I’ve come (two years ago I would’ve thought that previous sentence was pure gibberish) and what my body can do–adapt to new rhythms, styles, extended positions. It’s powerful.

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As such, not much cooking has occurred. This simple artichoke and fregola dish from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More was definitely the tastiest thing (and perhaps only things more complicated than scrambled eggs and one misguided cooking-while-sick soup attempt) to come out of my kitchen in February. In his liner notes, Ottolenghi calls this dish unphotogenic, and no picture appears. Well, Internet, may I present to you the not-stunning but certainly not ugly deliciousness of fregola artichoke pilaf with a bold and powerful jalapeño lemon sauce (page 82).

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These are the first pictures taken with my new camera (Olympus E-PL5). for the site! Daniel has been instrumental in taking and editing photos up to this point; I’m hoping to begin taking on some of the responsibility from here on out. Any tips would be appreciated 🙂

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Spicy Lemon Fregola with Artichokes and Caramelized Onions

barely adapted from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More

2 T olive oil
1 very large onion (or 2 small), cut into thin strips
1 T butter
about 11 ounces artichoke hearts (I used one and a half cans), liquid drained, each heart cut into sixths
9 oz fregola (about 1 ¼ cups) (you can substitute Israeli couscous or mograbiah)
2 ½ c veggie stock
1 ½ T red wine vinegar
¼ c kalamata olives, pitted and halved
¼ c toasted pine nuts (or almonds if you aren’t me)
chopped parsley to garnish
s&p

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan. Add onions and ¾ t salt and cook for at least 10 minutes (more like 13-14), stirring occasionally, until caramelized. While onions cook, place stock in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.

When onions are done, add butter. Stir until butter melts. Next, add the boiling veggie stock, artichoke hearts, fregola, and 3 good grinds of black pepper. Give everything a good stir, then cover and cook over low heat for 18 minutes without stirring. (Apparently stirring leads to gumminess and starch build up.) At 18 minutes, liquid should be mostly absorbed (you can give a tiny peek). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 more minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the red wine vinegar, olives, and pine nuts, and stir everything together gently. Serve with a big dollop of Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce (recipe below) and extra chopped parsley to garnish.

Lemon-Jalapeno Sauce

3 jalapenos, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 c parsley, coarsely chopped
1 T fresh lemon juice
3 T olive oil
1 preserved lemon, (or use my cheat: cut lemon (skin and all!) into thin slices and sautee with olive oil over medium low heat for 5 minutes; then add 1 t sugar and 1 t salt. Add water if sticks. Voila!)

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Blend until smooth!

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