We’re in autumn with both feet, though by midafternoon the windows are wide open. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the surprise of heat we get late in the day throughout most of the fall, here. I did my trick-or-treating in moon boots when I was a kid.
The first round of germs from school have hit us. The other day Cal was home and he helped me make chili, and then cornbread, despite how unwell he felt, and in spite of his dislike of chili. It takes a certain amount of fortitude to watch him wield a knife, use a heat source. But he likes doing anything I’m doing, even if it means making something he knows he doesn’t like to eat, and he’s gotten skilled enough that he is truly a help.
I spend these fall days cheering on the kids; driving everyone wherever they need to go; providing moral support for the lab reports and essays that must be written, the Spanish and violin that need practicing. As I come and go at both ends of the day, I notice the glow of various lights on in neighbor’s houses. Just as we inhabit our own home, lights glowing, doing our living within these comforting walls.
Baked Orzo with Mozzarella and Oregano
Slightly adapted from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
I love this. I never would have thought of adding fresh oregano, or lemon zest, both of which work so well in this dish. And the base of carrots, celery and onion gives it a nice depth. I cut back a bit on the amount of carrots and celery called for in the original recipe.
If you don’t have fresh oregano, use half the amount of dried oregano.
7 tbsp/100 ml olive oil
l large eggplant, cut into ¾ inch dice
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2/3 inch dice
3 medium celery stalks, cut into 2/3 inch dice
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
9 ounces (250 grams) orzo, rinsed
1 teaspoon (6 grams) tomato paste
1 2/3 cups (380 ml) vegetable stock
3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
grated zest of one lemon
4 ounces (120 grams) mozzarella, cut into 1/3-inch dice
½ cup (40 grams) grated parmesan
3 medium tomatoes, cut into slices 1/3 inch thick
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and black pepper
Preheat your oven to 400°F.
Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil and once the oil is shimmering, add the eggplant. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring the pieces occasionally, until golden brown. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer the eggplant to paper towels to drain. Add the carrots and celery to the remaining oil and cook for 5 minutes, then add the onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the stock, oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, eggplant, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper. Mix well. Transfer the mixture to an 8×11-inch ovenproof baking dish. Arrange the tomato slices on top, then sprinkle with the dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a grind of black pepper.
Bake for 40 minutes, until the liquid has been absorbed and the pasta is cooked through. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Yield: 4 servings