Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Prioritizing My Priorities

I feel like I'm being pulled from all directions today. As always though, there are things that I should be doing, and things that I'd rather be doing. And of course, I'm trying to cram it all in, so that I can please myself and everyone else. I ought to have more sense and realize this is not possible. What needs to be done is this: I should write down all the tasks, then prioritize them. But if I was that focused today, we wouldn't be having this conversation!

Still, there is one thing I can accomplish in the next few minutes and feel happy about. And that's to share this amazing recipe with you. It's a combination of Maria's recipe from Kali Orexi and Kevin's take on it from Closet Cooking. Both looked fantastic, so instead of following one of them, I combined both and the results were spectacular. If you've never tried making Greek food, I definitely suggest that you start with this. This is Greek food 101. Not only is it ridiculously easy, but the flavors and textures are so comforting, fresh, delicate and scrumptious. I'm also pretty sure it's healthy for you (but don't let that turn you off; it's pasta, people!). Before I knew about the wonderful world of food blogs, and had only been to a couple of Greek restaurants ever, I didn't have the best impression of Greek food. I mean, the moussaka was ok, as were the dolmas, the baklava, and so on. But it was never anything that blew me away and made me crave it. But this, hoooooooooooo boy, do I crave it! Also, thanks to Anthony Bourdain, Chef Michael Psilakis, and all the wonderful Greek food bloggers out there, I now fully understand that there's more to Greek cuisine than moussaka (pronounced moo-sa-KA ... or wait, is it moo-SA-ka? moooooo-SAKA! I have no idea. I'll just shut up now before I offend all my Greek friends).

Chicken Giouvetsi / Youvetsi

Serves 4

Click here for the printable version

2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb chicken pieces, with bone, skinless
1 large white onion, chopped

1 cubanelle pepper, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced

1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1.5 cups dry orzo pasta
3.5 cups good chicken stock

1/2 cup tomato puree
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (or pecorino. If you can find it, you can use kefalotyri, myzithra for authenticity)
Chopped parsley / cilantro for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Heat the oil in a large pot on medium high.

2. Brown the chicken pieces on all sides and set them aside.

3. In the same pan, turn the heat down to medium, then add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick, chopped onions and peppers. Saute for 5 mins. Add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.

4. Add the orzo pasta. Keep stirring it around and let it toast for 1-2 minutes.

5. Pour in the chicken stock and tomato puree. Season with salt and pepper. Stir it all together.

6. Add back the chicken. Bring this mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat and transfer the whole thing to a baking dish, with high sides. Bake it in the oven for 30-40 mins.

7. Take it out of the oven, then immediately sprinkle it with the grated cheese and chopped parsley. If you can resist this, then it keeps well in the fridge for quite a few days. Or if you're like DH and I, you'll devour the entire thing in two sittings, max!

Verdict: I get really happy and perky every time I find a new pasta dish to love. And this has such a unique flavor, thanks to the cubanelle pepper, chicken stock and the subtle flavors of the bay leaf and cinnamon. It helps that this is so easy to make - the oven does most of the work, really! And orzo is the best pasta for this, because each one of those tiny carby gems absorb all the stock and tomato puree, plumping up to give me one moan-worthy mouthful after another!

I hope the guys and girls over at Presto Pasta Nights give this one a shot. This week it's Patsy from Family, Friends and Food who will be posting the round-up. Check out her own homemade pasta entry this week - I am humbled.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Treats

It's been a fabulous weekend. Happy Mother's Day to all! I hope it went well for all you mommies out there. Did you get a chance to put your feet up and take a break from it all? No? I didn't think so. A mother's job is never done! Am I right, or am I right?! I spoke to my own mom today, over the phone, and silently wished that I could've been there with her today. Gifts are fine once in a while, but nothing really beats a warm hug. And mommy hugs are the most tender, aren't they?

These days, I'm perfectly happy being Ozzy's mommy. Today we had ice-cream together for the first time to celebrate our special relationship. I probably should not be feeding my cat ice-cream! Don't worry, he's fine. He just got a teensy bit from my finger - I dutifully hogged the rest. I've heard people say that you shouldn't give cats milk or other dairy. But Ozzy loves milk; it's his special treat. He goes mad whenever he catches a glimpse of it every time I open the fridge.
*sigh of pure bliss* ... I love this ... DH & Ozzy ... making my day every day!

We've been lucky enough to have wonderful weather this Mother's Day. In February, the park next to our apartments looked like this. I was walking in the bitter cold, and feeling sorry for the Canadian geese, freezing their little tushies off on that ice!

And here is the same vista as it looks today. Lovely!

DH stepped up to the plate today. Well, he comes through for me pretty much every day, but one of my favorite things is when he cooks for me! Especially this!

I know I know, to many of you this looks terribly unappetizing, but I guarantee that if you're Pakistani, you're salivating because you know that not much beats a hearty weekend brunch of sauteed chicken liver masala and parathas! And yes, this is all DH. Well, the parathas are of the frozen variety, and all we have to do is brown them on the skillet. But that gorgeous plate of creamy soft chicken livers, spiced just right, is purely his specialty. I can't touch this with a 10 ft pole. He marinates them overnight, then cooks them for 10 mins in the morning with lots of green chillies and cilantro. Et voila! Perfect.

I wish I could give you folks a recipe for this. But the honest truth is that DH doesn't follow any recipe. Never had, and apparently never will, if he has anything to say about it. He's like a mad scientist in the kitchen - randomly throwing things into the pan, purely on a whim. So all his dishes never turn out exactly like they did the last time he made them. And I'm pretty much the opposite, which is why I don't usually hang around the kitchen when he's in there ... concocting. Well, whatever the means, I can't argue with the results, not when they're this good. Mmmmmmmmm, now if you'll excuse me, I have a lot of chicken livers to devour.