Regina Schrambling's Collard Squares
Chez Panisse's Butternut Squash Risotto

Regina Schrambling's Chicken and Orzo with Lemon and Olives


The block continues, I'll be honest, though at least complaining about it seems to have unleashed some crazy sort of energy in me. After my last post, I suddenly felt freed - marched myself over to the corner salon and got a pedicure (Essie Bordeaux - so hottt), then planted myself determinedly in front of the computer on Friday night, with two lukewarm, sweetish, perfectly chewy char siu bao for dinner. Two episodes of The Office and one of Grey's Anatomy (does anyone agree that this show has jumped the shark? I am losing interest, swiftly - or maybe it's just tough to follow the genius of Steve Carell) later, I felt somewhat renewed. The next day, using all this new-found energy, I scoured the apartment within an inch of its life - cable wires and armoire carvings and window ledges have never sparkled with such lustre.

I also cooked like a madwoman - applesauce (recipe here, sans meringue, and next time I'd use less vanilla or none at all - but other than that it was delicious, lip-smackingly so) and chocolate-chip cookies (these, which in my opinion are The Best, though I didn't have enough brown sugar or time, so they didn't turn out quite as perfectly as they usually do, but if you follow Debbie's instructions, you will be on Chocolate Chip Cookie Cloud Nine, I promise), and apple butter (much tested in the blogosphere, but originating here and oh-so-wonderful - especially in plain Liberte yogurt, try it if you don't believe me... it might be my best snack yet), but also this one-pot meal from the same article as the collard squares.

It was tasty and easy - who knew that oven-cooking orzo with chicken broth rendered the orzo practically creamy? The lemons gave the dish an interesting, bitter bite and the olives provided a pleasing, salty kick. It kept us fed for two days and is the kind of meal you can get on the stove while you simultaneously zip up and down in your building feeling a little bit like Eloise though minus the pet raisin-eating turtle and hardy English nanny, to get your laundry in and out of the machines while your boyfriend scrubs the tub and moans for respite every once in a while (oh please, like I'm taking pity on you, I scrubbed the cable wires, for crying out loud, though actually, after reading this, I've decided that's the last time we clean with our old, toxic cleaning supplies - it's Blog Action Day, people! I'm taking action.) which, if you think about, is a pretty good kind of dinner to have in your arsenal.

(Is anyone else wondering where I'm going with all of this?)

(Nowhere, is where! Absolutely nowhere.)

The best part of the weekend, which was already shaping up to be pretty great (apparently cleaning and television-watching is all I need for happiness - tragic, I know), was that Deb and Alex and Shauna and Danny and Shauna's sweet friends all trekked out valiantly to Forest Hills, where we had a completely delightful meal at danny brown Wine Bar & Kitchen and talked gluten-free flours and flopping flans until we were gently nudged out the door (not only was our waiter, Tim, so super-charming, but the staff let us linger far past their Sunday closing time and had nothing but smiles and thanks for us when we left - gracious and delicious, that place is a gem). There's nothing like spending time with your Internet buddies, really.

And with that, mercifully, this manic post comes to an end. Thanks for reading, everyone! Let's hope things improve soon. I'm off to eat my weight in chocolate-chip cookies. Maybe that will inspire me.

Chicken and Orzo with Lemon and Olives
Serves 4

8 chicken drumsticks (I used four whole chicken legs)
Salt, pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups orzo
3 cups chicken broth
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 small lemon, cut into 8 wedges
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 large bay leaf
3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, divided (I used 1 tablespoon of dried oregano)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Season the chicken legs well on all sides with 1 1/2  teaspoons salt and  1 teaspoon pepper.

2. In a Dutch oven or large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the legs well on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.

3. Add the orzo, chicken stock, garlic, lemon wedges and juice, olives, bay leaf and 1 tablespoon of the oregano. Stir to combine all the ingredients, then return the chicken to the pan. Cover and transfer to the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is done (the meat will be firm and its juices will run clear). Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary, sprinkle with the remaining oregano and serve.