For some cooks, long and involved recipes have the same effect as opening an 800-page novel: Yikes, I'll never get through it. Yet, I know that the content has more to do with the enjoyment of reading that book than the number of pages, so I often forge ahead.
Seeing a long list of ingredients can make any cook hesitate, but you should consider what those ingredients are. In the case of the lamb recipe here, everything is easily found at the supermarket. The most exotic and expensive ingredient probably is the olives. If you've never used orzo pasta, you'll love it; it's like eating fat juicy rice! And, while you might not have feta in the fridge, once you add it to this recipe, it will find its way into salads and won't go to waste.
I found this recipe on the food website Food52. It was an entry in a contest called Best Cheap Feast. Readers got to vote and this recipe garnered an impressive 3,386 views. It was created by a guy who calls his blog Fiveandspice. The original recipe came from his mother, who clipped from a magazine.
"It was a hit and became a mainstay of our family meals," the blogger explained. "It was also the recipe she sent to each of us, successively, when we needed something easy but impressive to cook for friends in college."
As with any good cook, he's adapted it over the years and calls it "A filling -- and exciting -- dinner that goes from stove to the table in under an hour."
'Greek' Lamb with Orzo
1 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
28-ounce can of whole tomatoes, drained and smooshed with your hands
14-ounces can of chopped/diced tomatoes
5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
1 pound orzo pasta
2 cups chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1. In a good sized Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan, heat the one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it is shimmering. Add the lamb and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Cook, stirring to break it apart, until it is nicely browned. Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
2. Return the pot to the stove top and add the onion and garlic (still over medium-high). Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices (cinnamon, oregano, cumin, coriander, and red pepper) and cook until they start smelling extremely toasty and fragrant (1-2 minutes). Then, stir in the smooshed tomatoes.
3. Cook the smooshed tomatoes in the spices, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then, add the can of diced tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
4. Add the cooked lamb back to the pot, give a good stir, then cover the pot and leave it to cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. At this point, stir in the fresh spinach and cook just a couple more minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind you'll be sprinkling just a touch of feta and olives on, which will add to the saltiness).
5. While the lamb and tomatoes are simmering together and marrying their flavors, bring a large pot of well-salted water (it should taste like sea water, basically) to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7 or 8 minutes, usually. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
6. Drain the orzo. Toss the orzo with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and all of the parsley, adding a bit of pasta water at a time, if you feel it needs additional liquid.
7. Spread the orzo out on an enormous serving platter. Spoon the lamb and sauce all over the top, then sprinkle with the feta and chopped olives. Pass the dish around the table and relax. A good red wine, on the dry side, is a highly recommended companion here. Serves 8-10.
The appeal of some recipes is undeniable. Take cute little pies on a stick. They'd make a very clever party dessert, just right for a wedding or baby shower. Thaw and roll out store-bought dough and use a biscuit or cooking cutter to make the round crusts that you will then fill. The rest is pretty easy. Sticks are optional, so you can simply serve them instead as old-fashioned hand pies.
This recipe calls for a strawberry-rhubarb mixture, but you could fast-track the process with canned filling. The recipe is from Pillsbury.
Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Pops
3/4 cup frozen strawberries, thawed, chopped, drained, juice reserved
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup frozen chopped rhubarb, thawed
1 box refrigerated pie crusts, softened as directed on box
8 craft sticks (flat wooden sticks with round ends)
1 egg white, beaten
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons milk
Heat oven to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, place reserved strawberry juice. In a small bowl, mix 1/3 cup granulated sugar and the cornstarch. Using whisk, beat into reserved strawberry juice. Stir in strawberries and rhubarb.
Remove pie crusts from pouches; unroll on work surface. Using 3 1/2-inch round cutter, cut out 16 rounds (8 rounds per crust). Place 8 rounds on ungreased cookie sheet. Spoon strawberry-rhubarb mixture evenly onto each round to within 1/2 inch of edge. Place 1 craft stick in filling of each.
Flatten remaining rounds to 4 inches in diameter. Brush underside of each round with egg white; place over fruit. Press edges together; seal with fork. Cut small slit on top of each. Brush tops with egg white; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar, dividing evenly among pops.
Bake 10 to 13 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack; cool 10 minutes before serving.
Optional icing: Mix powdered sugar and milk until smooth, adding milk until thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over pops; let stand until set, about 30 minutes.
Tips: If desired, replace the strawberry-rhubarb filling with 1 cup of your favorite canned pie filling. Makes 8.
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