November 5th, 2012
Though it happens, I try not to post photos that I don’t love. I make food, I’m not a photographer. But, still, I had no intention of posting this pic snapped with my iPhone. After all, this was just a quick meal thrown together in our need of comfort. It wasn’t recipe tested three times over. I didn’t try to capture as good a picture as possible. It was just dinner one night.
Though this dish was exactly what we needed, in more ways than one, it wasn’t necessarily going to make its way here. This morning, though, as we returned to our normal routine, something that too many other cannot do today, I thought better of it. This dish, a full meal cozied into a single casserole, is exactly what home cooking is about. It’s easy, healthy, satisfying and something that the whole family can dig into. And, of course, with sweet roasted carrots and bright dill, it’s delicious. It’s just what we need right now. All of us.
I hope it’s not strange to admit that this recipe hasn’t been tested several times over. I wouldn’t feed you something that wasn’t good! It’s just that with so much going on—Sandy recovery, the election, and disturbing news like argibusiness giants spening more than $45 million trying to defeat a CA bill that would require labeling some GMO foods (what’s to hide?!)—this seems like the right time to share with you some of the home cooking I do when you’re not watching. Cooking that just gets the job done when I’m not trying to perfect recipes that can help you just get the job done. Cooking that’s comforting. Cooking that, though far from restaurant perfection, hits the spot. Now seems like the right time to encourage you to do the same kind of home cooking.
Maybe you’re distracted, too. Preoccupied with the election. Having to fare with yet another day off of school tomorrow. Maybe you’re worried about how to fill your gas tank. Maybe you’re just feeling tired. If you’re lucky enough to have power, heat and some ingredients in your cupboard, then you can still throw together a meal. Do it for all the people who can’t tonight. Then sit with a big heaping bowl of this orzo—you don’t need to serve anything else—and enjoy your family. That’s what home cooking for family is all about.
Please vote tomorrow. If you’re voting in California, learn more about why it’s important for everyone to vote YES on 37. Regardless of your political affiliation, we have a right to know what’s in our food. And, please, please, if you can, support Sandy relief.
There is still so much work ahead and so many ways that you can give—I’ve even seen shipping addresses where donations can be sent via Amazon by people who live outside of the impacted areas. Needs are changing moment by moment, though. If you are not in the tri-state area or cannot stay on top of the constantly changing needs, it seems that your best bet is to give money to a reputable relief organization working with victims of Sandy. The Red Cross is just one of these orgs and giving to them is a simple as going here or texting the word texting “REDCROSS” to 90999 to give an automatic $10.
Baked Orzo with Roasted Carrots & Dill
(can be shared with kids 12+ mos)*
8-10 large carrots, washed, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/2 of a large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper
1 16-ounce box orzo
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus more to top
1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing baking dish
1. Roast carrots and onions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss carrots and onions with 1/4 cup of olive oil, salt to taste and freshly ground pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until carrots are tender throughout and onions are caramelized in spots, about 35 minutes. Set vegetables aside to cool and turn heat down to 350 degrees.
2. Cook orzo according to package directions, but for only 7 minutes. Drain, but do not rinse.
3. Cut cooled carrots into 1″ or bite sized pieces and, if desired, cut cooled onions as well. In a large mixing bowl, combine carrots, onion, orzo, remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, broth, Greek yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, dill and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Mix to combine well.
4. Butter a 2 quart baking dish and fill with orzo mixture. Top with more grated Parmesan, to taste, and dot with pieces of butter. Place casserole in 350 degree oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top of your pasta bake has formed a golden brown crust and the orzo underneath holds together somewhat. The orzo shouldn’t be expected to hold together the way a lasagna does, so be careful not to over bake. If you do, this will lose it’s creamy texture. Serve in big, heaping bowls.
* Note: This is safe to share with very beginner eaters starting as early as 6 months. Puree or pulse a little bit of the final dish in a food processor until desired consistency. You may need to add a little water, broth, breast milk or formula to get the right texture. You can stir additional yogurt into the final puree if desired.