Friday, September 2, 2011

Pesto Chickpea Orzo with Lemon Fennel Potatoes - 2 recipe special post!

Happy Labor Day weekend!  I know that I haven't been posting much lately, but it's because my crazy work schedule has been zapping all of my ninja skills and I haven't been cooking.  For the last few weeks I've been existing mostly on peanut butter and jelly, salads, cereal, and mass amounts of coffee.  However, last night I finally took some time to cook a real meal, and let me tell you - these recipes are weak-in-the-knees good!  The chickpea orzo is just a little bit spicy and perfectly flavored with cilantro and lemon pesto, and the creamy potatoes literally melt in your mouth with every bite.  I rounded out last night's meal with some kale sauteed with garlic in olive oil and a splash of vegetable broth.  Delicious!

Pesto Chickpea Orzo with Lemon Fennel Potatoes

Pesto Chickpea Orzo


1 cup uncooked orzo (I used whole wheat but any kind is fine)
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
6 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 scallions, chopped (green parts only)
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup grated carrots
1 large bunch cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2  teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
zest from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
3 Tablespoons water

First, start cooking the orzo.  Place the orzo in a medium saucepan with the vegetable broth, 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil and cook until orzo is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, make the pesto.  Place the cilantro, 4 Tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.  The pesto will be relatively thin, so don't worry!
Once your orzo is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the chickpeas, carrots, scallions, and pesto.  Stir to incorporate all ingredients.  Add the mint and lemon zest and stir again.  Taste for salt and spices and adjust if necessary.  Allow the orzo to rest for about 5-10 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

Lemon Fennel Potatoes
*Note: this recipe was inspired by something I found in a cooking magazine.  I have tweaked it slightly, but just wanted to give credit where credit was due!


1 1/2 lbs unpeeled red potatoes (about 6 average-sized potatoes), cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed slightly
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
zest from 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh italian parsley
several grinds of black pepper

Put the potatoes in a pot with enough water to cover.  Boil 20 minutes until tender.  Drain the potatoes and return to the pot.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to incorporate everything and to break up the potatoes.  You're not trying to get a mashed-potato consistency, but you want them smashed and creamy.  Use the back of your spoon to kind of smush things around until all the large pieces of potato are broken up.  Enjoy!

Tips and Tricks:

1. Leave the skins on your potatoes; it adds lovely color to the dish and the skin of the potato is where most of its nutrients are.

2. Make sure you crush your fennel seeds slightly or you won't get their full flavor in this dish.  Don't pulverize them in a spice grinder or anything, but just gently crush them a bit with either a mortar and pestle or just do what I do - put them in a coffee cup and smush them a bunch of times with the bottom of a sea salt grinder.

And just in case anyone was wondering how I cook my kale, it's not really a "recipe" (because I just eyeball everything) but just take a big stockpot and drizzle a bunch of olive oil in the bottom.  Sautee a bunch of minced garlic (I use jarred minced garlic and I literally just take a big ol' spoonful of it and plop it in my pot) in the oil over medium heat for a minute or two.  Add your kale - make sure your kale is washed and the leaves are torn off the tough stems; I get around this by paying a bit extra for pre-washed and de-stemmed bagged kale - to the pot with a little splash of vegetable broth (if you have any; if not you can use a splash of water or even white wine) and stir your kale around until it's wilted and bright green.  If your kale doesn't start to wilt in a minute or two, turn up your heat.  That's it!

So I hope you enjoy my latest ninja recipes; have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend!  Summer is coming to a close, but that just means more excuses to cook - nothing like hiding inside and cooking up a storm when it's snowy and frigid outside.  This ninja is looking forward to it!  Well, that's it for now, love as always from myself, Lucy, and Skye.

<3 The Fur Ninja

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