When I was 13 years old I could not WAIT to turn 18. It took forever, but as you may have noticed, I made it. Now that I feel like setting the brakes on time, days pass flying by, turn into weeks, months, so here we are at the end of May, and I find myself with quite a few years added to those eighteen. Unreal. Anyway, the last Monday of May brings with it the formidable joy of Reveal Day from The Secret Recipe Club.  If you don’t already know about it, a food blogger is paired with another one in secret, has about a month to pick a recipe and cook from it, then the whole group blogs about their chosen dish at the exact same time.  Nothing is cooler than this, you must admit. I was paired this month with Life on Food, hosted by Emily, a 31-year-old woman with stunning blue eyes and a food blog that is a stalker’s dream! She’s been blogging since 2008, and her index of recipes is quite extensive. At first I decided to make something sweet, and almost settled on her Blackberry Oat  Muffins.  But then, I flirted with Carrot Cake Pancakes and with Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee.  Not sure what happened to my sweet tooth, but the outcome was nevertheless perfect:  a fantastic dish of juicy meatballs laying on top of toasted orzo. Life on Food means life is good!


(slightly modified from Life on Food)

1 quart chicken stock
2 slices white bread, crusts trimmed
Milk, for soaking
1 pound ground lamb
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon grated onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 lemon, juiced, plus 2 tsp zest
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper
olive oil, for drizzling
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup orzo
3 cups fresh baby spinach, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta

Heat the oven to 400 degrees . In a medium saucepan, heat the chicken stock over low heat; keep warm. In a small bowl, soak the bread in the milk.

In a large bowl, combine the lamb and egg. Wring out any excess milk from the soaked bread and crumble the bread into the meat. Stir in 1/4 cup parsley, onion, garlic, lemon zest, oregano, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Drizzle with olive oil; mix. Roll the mixture into 20 meatballs and arrange on a nonstick or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until browned, 15 to 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in a few ladles of the warm stock and allow it to absorb before adding more. Keep adding stock a little at a time and cook until the orzo is al dente.

Stir in the spinach to heat through in the last-minute of cooking. Remove from the heat. Stir in the lemon juice and feta. Serve the orzo in shallow bowls. Top with the meatballs and remaining 1/4 cup parsley.


to print the recipe, click here


Comments: In the opening paragraph of her post on this recipe, Emily says… I plan my meals, snacks, grocery lists days in advance.  I don’t want to be unprepared. Currently I have only about 2 cups worth of flour. I want to make muffins that require 3 cups. I am stressed.  That gave me such a big smile, because I am exactly the same way. With the added quirk of often forgetting what I have hidden deep inside in the pantry, so I “think” I have only a cup of flour, but two unopened bags will be found when I bring yet another from the store. I never fail to amaze myself.

This was a great meal, my main change was to use a gluten-free bread which I had in the freezer begging to be used up. The bread was made with almond flour and some ground nuts, I thought it would go nicely with the lamb meatballs, and indeed it worked well.  The toasted orzo was super creamy, more like a risotto with all the starch of the pasta as part of the sauce.  It did not take that long to cook, we like our orzo very al dente. 

Emily, I hope you had a great time with your assignment!  And, as usual, I invite my readers to go poke a blue frog. Said frog will take you to a collection of goodies made by my fellow friends on The Secret Recipe Club for today’s reveal day…

ONE YEAR AGO: Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Penne with Trapanese Pesto


FOUR YEARS AGO: Spring Pasta

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ice Cream Melts for Mango


I fell in love with heirloom tomatoes this year, and my passion only intensifies the more I use them.  Get a bunch of tomatoes, of all colors and shapes you can find.  Dice them, keep the skin and the seeds.  This is a simple dish.  Refreshing, absolutely perfect for a 110 F day (that is 43 C, folks!).   Actually, I am not complaining: my Brazilian nature takes the heat with poise, dignity,  and uncooked pasta sauces.  😉

(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup uncooked orzo
3-4 heirloom tomatoes, diced
kalamata olives, pitted, coarsely diced
fresh parsley, minced
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
splash of white balsamic vinegar
salt and black pepper to taste
crumbled feta cheese
lemon zest to taste (optional)

Start by making the relish:  mix in a bowl the diced tomatoes, olives, season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar.  Stir occasionally as you boil the water to cook the orzo.

Cook the orzo according to the package instructions.  Drain, add it to the fresh tomato mixture, mix the parsley, add the crumble feta on top, and mix gently, no need to try to fully incorporate it.  Serve with a nice sprinkle of fresh lemon zest on top, if desired.


to print the recipe, click here

This dish is all about the contrast between hot orzo and cold relish.  I would have added capers if our bottle was not 312 miles away in another kitchen.  Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of what is where. Often while at a grocery store  in Manhattan we are sure to have something already in the fridge, and we sure do, but the fridge in question is in Norman… and vice-versa.  The bottom line: if you have capers, add them.  Leftovers are great cold too.

And now, for something completely different (great show, BTW)…  We are often concerned with the quality of the ingredients we use in our cooking, right? Let me now share with you something  equally important: the kind of labor involved in bringing an ingredient to your table.  Please jump here for a very informative article published in “Not Without Salt” and learn what may be hiding behind the gorgeous tomatoes you bring home.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Headed to Brazil!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Rhubarb Brouhaha: Revelation Compote

THREE YEARS AGO: Love me tender…


Last week, on a very busy day in which I had zero inspiration for cooking dinner, the daily email from Martha Stweart’s Everyday Food was a life saver.  It arrived mid-morning as usual,  and featured a grilled pork tenderloin with a simple soy-citrus marinade.  I had a tenderloin in the fridge, and all ingredients needed for the marinade.   Side dish?   Orzo sounded great, so I searched for recipes on the same website, and one of the top choices was “Toasted Orzo with Olives and Lemon”.   The clouds left the horizon,  blue skies announced that my dinner blues were gone.  And you’ll get both recipes in a single post!  😉

(adapted from Everyday Food)

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), trimmed of excess fat and silver skin

In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, lime juice, oil, and ginger. Add pork to the marinade, turning to coat well on all sides. Marinate in the fridge for several hours to overnight.

Remove meat from marinade, and pat it dry.  Season it very lightly with salt, and grill for 7 minutes on a hot grill.  Turn the meat to grill the opposite side, and grill for 6 minutes more.  Without opening the grill, turn the heat off and let the meat stay inside for 5 minutes.   Remove the meat from the grill, tent it with foil, and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

to print the recipe, click here

(adapted from Everyday Food)

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound orzo (1 + 1/4 cup)
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Salt and ground pepper
1/4  cup slivered black olives
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add the orzo and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add 2 cups of water and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cover, and simmer until orzo is al dente and liquid is absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in olives, parsley, lemon juice, and remaining tablespoons of olive oil, if desired (I omitted this step).


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  What a great dinner this was! Ready in less than 30 minutes, all I had to do was make the marinade at lunch time (but you can do it in the morning, if you don’t go home for lunch), and by the time we came home from work, dinner was a cinch to make.

I used the 7-6-5 grilling method for the pork tenderloin, because it works well with pretty much any type of marinade or dry rub.  It is easy to take care of the rest of the meal when all you have to do is set a timer and move the meat around when it goes off.

Toasting the orzo is what makes this side dish so special.  I’ve used a similar method before in one of the simplest and greatest recipes I’ve made last year, the “Carrot Nib Orzo”.  If until now you’ve only treated orzo as a normal pasta, boiling in salted water, please try either of these recipes, you will be more than pleasantly surprised by the improvement in taste and texture.

ONE YEAR AGO: Weekend Pita Project

TWO YEARS AGO:  Mandioca Frita 101 – Fried Yucca Root (Brazilian Food at its best!)

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I’ve owned plenty of cookbooks in my lifetime.  More than I need, more than I’ll ever be able to cook from,  even if I tried a new recipe every day and lived to 105 years old.  Seasoned cookbook enthusiast that I am, my next statement may surprise you, but don’t take it lightly:  Radically Simple by Rozanne Gold is my favorite.  Ever!  No other book tempts me to cook every single recipe within it, as this one does.  All her recipes are appealing, not for their simplicity, but because she always transforms a few ingredients into something special, something different, something unique and enticing.  Take this humble orzo, for example, and dress it up just right.

(reprinted with permission from Rozanne Gold)

6 oz baby carrots
2Tbs butter
8 oz orzo pasta
1 + 1/2 cups chicken stock
1  to 1 + 1/2 cup water
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup chopped chives, divided (I used parsley)

Place the baby carrots in the bowl of a food processor and process a few times, until the pieces are a little bigger than the grains of orzo.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the orzo and carrots, season lightly with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes stirring often, until the pasta starts to get a golden color and is fragrant.  Add the chicken stock, 3/4 of the water, the garlic clove squeezed through a press, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is almost all absorbed and the pasta is tender, about 12 minutes. You may or may not need to add all the water. Add the Parmigiano cheese, 1/3 cup of the chives, and gently mix. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, garnish with the remaining chives, and…


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  If all recipes in this cookbook please me as much as this one, it will be hard to cook from a different source!  😉  Toasting the orzo and treating it like Arborio rice in a risotto preparation considerably changes the texture of the pasta.  Orzo has a tendency to be a bit “slippery”, but not in this dish: it feels wholesome, binding nicely with the other components.   The bits of carrots give a hint of sweetness and add a lot to the dish.  I had to exert extreme self-control to put the leftovers in the fridge, instead of leaving them in front of us while we talked after dinner.  Those can be very caloric conversations!

Radically Simple is a must-have if you love great food, with interesting twists in the preparation.  A pasta that cooks in the oven without ever seeing a drop of water?   It’s in there.  Using beets to make a veggie stock with unique color and flavor?  It’s there too. So, if you haven’t done so already, then order your copy now, and the moment it reaches your home lay on a comfy sofa, and savor it…  😉

ONE YEAR AGOA Sticky Situation

TWO YEARS AGO:  The Garden

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My Brazilian nature often predisposes me towards rice, but the more I cook orzo, the more I like it.   It might be more versatile than rice,  it cooks faster, and it’s  absolutely fool proof, all of which adds to its charm. The inspiration for this recipe came from an old Fine Cooking magazine, but I simplified it quite a bit  because the original seemed a tad too busy:  too many flavors fighting for attention.   This pared-down version was a winner!

(very loosely adapted from Fine Cooking magazine)

1 cup orzo
2 Tbs olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
8 oz spinach leaves, stemmed, and coarsely chopped
4 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or dried, reconstituted with hot water)
1/2 lemon, juice and zest
salt and pepper
parmiggiano-reggiano (optional)

Start cooking the orzo on a large pot with salted water (it should take around 9 minutes).
Heat the olive oil on a large skillet and saute the shallots, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper.  Add the sliced shiitake mushrooms, saute until they start to get golden brown.   Add the chopped spinach, cook until it begins to wilt.  At this point, if the orzo is not cooked yet, turn the heat off and reserve.

When the orzo is almost cooked, remove 1/4 cup of the cooking water and reserve it.   Turn the heat back to medium on the skillet with the spinach mix, squirt lemon juice and zest, season with salt and pepper.  Drain the orzo and add it to the skillet, mixing well.  Add some of the pasta water if necessary.  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.  If desired, sprinkle parmiggiano-reggiano on top.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: For years I’ve made quick pan sauces for pasta with  the cooking water and some sauteed veggies.  Spinach is a constant player in such dishes, but this was the first time I chopped the leaves before sauteeing.   Voila‘:  it was much better!  Somehow, even with baby spinach, the whole leaves had a tendency to clump instead of reaching a nice distribution.   Live and learn.   😉

This was a quick dish to put together! It will drop into my regular rotation of meals for busy weeknights, keeping the orzo/spinach/lemon foundation and playing with other options: black olives, sundried tomatoes, roasted red bell pepper, artichoke hearts….

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