The only thing that the three recipes below have in common is that they have been in my “everyday recipes” rotation for at least 15 years! Most of us have a rotation, don’t we? A set of recipes or meal ideas that we rotate through weekly or monthly.
As we are in the midst of the busy holiday season, I find myself returning to some of my old standbys…meals that I don’t have to put any thought into, meals that I have made so many times I can whip them up in short order. It’s comforting too. My daughter took one look in the old Le Creuset pot full of Baked Chicken and Orzo and exclaimed, “Oh, I remember this!”. She should remember it…I must have made it once a week for a good while there when she was younger. (hint for parents: I used to chop the tomatoes into tiny pieces so as not to terrify the children)
Dishes leave my rotation, as they should, when I tire of making them (or I sense a “not that again” attitude from my eaters, who are, for the record, much too polite to actually say “not that again”)
But I eventually return to them because they are really good and they bring back memories… just as the simple Madeleine cake does for Marcel Proust in A La Recherche Du Temps Perdue. Sorry. French major. Don’t get to use it very often.
Anyway, these recipes are among the “keepers” in my collection. Enjoy!
Spicy Vegetable Couscous
This is my idea of the perfect meatless meal (although not vegetarian, of course, with the chicken broth) It is a simplified version of the wonderful Moroccan dish that usually includes lamb, chicken and/or veal. I found this years ago in a book published by Glamour Magazine with recipes from their Gourmet on the Run feature. If you ever see it in a used book store be sure and pick it up as it is full of great, quick and easy recipes.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 small or 1 medium turnip, diced
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2-3 small zucchini, sliced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup couscous
fresh parsley or cilantro
In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat oil. Add onion and garlic and saute until tender but not brown. Add turnip, carrots, tomatoes, salt, cumin, crushed red pepper and chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender yet firm when tested with a fork. Add zucchini and garbanzo beans; cook until zucchini is just tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. Heat chicken broth and butter in a large saucepan with a lid. When it starts to boil, add couscous, stir, cover, and remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes to steam. When couscous is tender and has absorbed all of the broth, use a fork to fluff it and serve with the vegetables and broth garnished with parsley or cilantro and sesame seeds. Serves 4-5
Ben Moy’s Spicy Pork Tenderloin
I found this recipe from Ben Moy in the Chicago Tribune years ago. It was published alongside an “Earthy Herb” chicken stir fry and these two dishes have been favorites ever since. I’ll be sure and make the chicken version soon and share that as well. I added “optional” to the Szechwan peppercorns because I made it without for years being unable to find them. They are available at Williams Sonoma now and they add a unique flavor but the recipe is also good without them.
2 small pork tenderloins, trimmed and sliced on the bias against the grain into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cup into thin strips
1 small red onion, peeped and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 teaspoon Szechwan red peppercorns, crushed (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled, crushed and chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 green onions, cleaned and sliced for garnish
In a bowl, combine the red pepper strips and red onion and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine pork, garlic, jalapeno, red peppercorns, sesame oil, soy, sherry, cornstarch and chopped ginger, Let sit 10 to 15 minutes.
Heat a large skillet or wok, until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir fry the vegetables until the are just beginning to soften. Remove vegetables to a colander and keep them close at hand.
Rinse skillet, wipe out and return to heat. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with the salt. Add pork and seasonings and spread single layer to let pork brown lightly on one side before you stir fry it a bit to cook through. You should do this in two batches if your skillet is not large enough to cook the whole lot at once. When pork is ready, return vegetables to the pan and toss until well mixed and heated through. Correct seasonings as desired and garnish with the fresh green onion. 4-6 servings
Baked Chicken and Orzo
This is one of only 3 casseroles that have a place in my recipe binder. Now, I love casseroles, I grew up on them in small town Mississippi. But they just never went over very well with my eaters. And if I did make a “casserole”, I was always careful to rename it. For example, a chicken noodle casserole might become Roasted Chicken with Linguini. This Baked Chicken with Orzo was a hit, I believe, because of the extra large pieces of chicken breast that become melt-in-your-mouth tender while baking in the silky buttered tomato sauce. Recipe from Casseroles, Classic to Contempory, by Nina Graybill and Maxine Rapoport.
6 chicken breast halves, skinned and cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons olive oil
28-ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
6 basil leaves, torn into small pieces, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 tablespoons butter (original recipe calls for a whole stick of butter…go for it if you dare)
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces orzo
2 cups chicken broth, heated to boiling
Brown the chicken pieces in the oil While chicken is browning, simmer the tomatoes, butter, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper in an uncovered saucepan for about 20 minutes until somewhat thickened.
Place chicken in a 3-quart ovenproof casserole with a lid. When tomato sauce has cooked down a bit, pour over chicken and place covered casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Add orzo and boiling broth to the casserole and mix gently. Cover and return to oven for 30 more minutes. The recipe notes that you can add more hot broth if the dish seems dry before the orzo is tender but I have never had to do that. Serves 6