I came across this recipe when looking through Jesse Ziff Cool's Your Organic Kitchen, thinking it was one I had made in the past and loved, but really I had something else that uses sun dried tomatoes in mind. I'll have to find that one and try it out. Chicken and Orzo stew is a good one for using up some greens and serving some pasta. Its quick to make - my husband cooked it up while I shuffled about doing some other terribly important thing - and tastes pretty good, though I think I would leave out the wine if you're cooking for kids. At our house, at least, wine in food just seems to be a flavor they don't enjoy. So of course, neither of them ate it. We finally managed to convince them that the chicken wasn't so bad if removed from the stew and accompanied by a cream cheese sandwich.
Early this afternoon I was lucky enough to have some culinary adventures of my own, in one of my favorite neighborhoods - Hayes Valley. I love the grassy green space filling the Octavia Boulevard's esplanade, especially for the really big art installations that change every year or so. I love the sunflowers and black eyed susans that grow at its edge and the kids' climbing structure just beyond. We refer to it as The Spider Playground. On sunny afternoons I like to take my kids and stop at the Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk on Linden, then savor my coffee at the playground. Next we cross Octavia Boulevard and pop into Miette for a treat to have after lunch and then continue on down the block for lunch and a loaf of bread to go at La Boulange.
But this morning, I was on my own. I stopped for some beans and an iced coffee at Blue Bottle, and also picked up a tiny coffee cake made with Magnolia Stout from Magnolia Brewery. Magnolia has been on the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets, in the upper Haight, for many years. Back in its early days my husband and I dined there weekly. Magnolia's brewmaster Dave Mclean makes really great beer and is an all around nice guy - so the cake was too great an opportunity to pass up. Blue Bottle's pastry queen, Caitlin Williams Freeman, baked my little treat, and I'm told she and her husband, Blue Bottle founder James Freeman, are really nice too.
So back to my cake. It was good - nutty and spicy and genuinely unusual with its caraway seed finish - but just begging to be eaten with a hot cup of coffee and not an iced one. So with much anticipation, I'm saving it for tomorrow morning.
While puttering about over there, I came across something else I haven't encountered before - Project Homeless Connect's Community Garden. Community gardens have been popping up like mushrooms lately, partially due to the Mayor's Healthy and Sustainable Food Directive of last year, I suppose. Which is all good and well - I am a huge fan of community gardens. However, its hard not to look at them with a more critical eye, simply because there are so many. They're just becoming too trendy for their own good.
But this one is different - its focused on connecting homeless people and housed people, in an attempt to create community. Its a really intriguing idea. I can think of many reasons why homeless and housed people might not want to connect at all. Can a garden bring them together? I'll be checking in on their website to see what develops.
Chicken, Orzo and Greens Stew (adapted from Jesse Ziff Cool's Your Organic Kitchen):
6 oz orzo
1 1/2 teaspoons whole mustard seeds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 red onion or shallot, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (I wouldn't add this if you're trying to feed young kids)
2 cups chicken broth
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
1 pound greens (chard, stir fry, spinach, whatever), thinly sliced
Parmesan or Asiago cheese, grated
salt & pepper
Cook the orzo according to the package directions, drain and place in a large serving bowl.
While the orzo is cooking, place the mustard seeds in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned and fragrant. Add to the bowl or orzo.
Heat the oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until browned and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon to the bowl or orzo.
Add the onion to the skillet and cook for 4 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes more. Add the wine, broth, oregano and greens. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the greens are wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add to the bowl with orzo.
Toss to blend and garnish with cheese.