Baked Orzo with Lamb 1

Baked Orzo with Lamb

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This Greek-inspired Baked Orzo with Lamb may not be the most beautiful dish that I’ve ever served up, but when it comes to comfort food it can’t be beat. This stick-to-your-ribs meal reminds me of a cross between baked ziti and dirty ice: plump orzo is combined with a thick, chunky tomato sauce, spinach, feta, and deliciously seasoned ground lamb before its baked to perfection. Alongside a simple cucumber and tomato salad (chop and toss with red wine vinegar, sea salt, and fresh dill), this meal is the perfect way to transition to fall’s chilly evenings.

Ground lamb can be hard to find sometimes, but it’s worth seeking out for the rich flavor that it contributes to this dish. If you can’t find it – or don’t care for it – ground beef also works well. For a vegetarian version, you can also substitute chopped mushrooms. I also like to use an oven-safe cast iron pan (I’m obsessed with this pan) when I make this, because it prevents me from dirtying a second dish. If you don’t have a pan that can go in the oven, simply transfer the mixture to a baking pan before topping it with the asiago.

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Cajun Jambalaya with Okra, Andouille and Shrimp

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The other day, I was thinking about the way I used to eat. Back when I was in college and shortly after I graduated. Let’s just say it wasn’t very healthy or very delicious. Looking back, I think there was a period of time where I just completely forgot that I knew how to cook a decent meal. Plus, I couldn’t really be bothered. Like a lot of people, I had the misconception that cooking a real dinner out of real ingredients would be too expensive and take too much time. So we’d boil a box of pasta and mix it with a jar of sauce and some sausage. Or we’d try to be “healthy” and make a chicken stir-fry, but we would totally ruin it by using store-bought marinades that were loaded with sugar. For a special treat, we’d buy a box of zatarain’s mix and make jambalaya.

I don’t miss the other stuff at all, but I do kind of miss the jambalaya. And with Foodbuzz pledging to donate $25 to the Greater New Orleans Foundation (helping fishermen who were effected by the oil spill and their families) for every Gulf-Inspired post this weekend, it seemed like the perfect excuse to make it. Of course, I wasn’t going to resort to using a box – I know better than that now! (And a quick look at the back of the box confirmed my suspicions — 21% of your RDA of sodium? MSG? Sodium dioxide?? No thanks!) No, this jambalaya is 100% real food and 100% real flavor. Sure you have to spend a few minutes chopping vegetables, but other than that it really isn’t any more difficult or time consuming than the boxed stuff. And the final product is so much healthier and so much more delicious that there really isn’t any excuse to take “shortcuts”!

Looking for more Gulf-inspired flavor? How about a nice, steamy bowl of gumbo? Gumbo is very similar to jambalaya, but it’s prepared as a soup enriched with a roux. In gumbo, the rice is cooked separately from the other ingredients and added in the final step instead of cooking along with everything else and absorbing all of the flavors.

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Habanero Hot Sauce

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Last week I promised you a recipe for habanero hot sauce, but I ended up getting side-tracked by a few exciting (and top-secret) projects and didn’t have time to post it. But here you go! I made this sauce to go with the tamales that we had a few nights ago, but I’ve also used it in a few different ways since. It’s a great way to jazz up a frozen burrito, and its also pairs nicely with eggs. I’m planning to use it later this week in a squash hash as well. You might want to scale down the recipe a little – that’s a 12-ounce bottle you see up there – but this is a really nice condiment to keep around.

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Mexican Omelette with Chorizo 2

Mexican Omelette with Chorizo

This simple chorizo omelette recipe comes together quickly but is jam-packed with flavor! This Mexican omelette is great for breakfast, but I also really love making them for dinner.

Onion Jam

Simply put, this onion jam was so good that I just can’t wait any longer to post it. Which means you’re all getting a special Sunday night post. 🙂 [….]