ORZO WITH LAMB (for eight to ten)
1 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
28 ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and smooshed with your hands
14 ounce can of diced tomatoes
5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
1 pound orzo
2 cups chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped
½ cup crumbled feta
- In a good sized Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan, heat the one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat until it is shimmering. Add the lamb and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Cook, stirring to break it apart until it is nicely browned. Remove the lamb from the pot with a slotted spoon and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.
- Return the pot to the stove top and add the onion and garlic (still over medium-high). Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices (cinnamon, oregano, cumin, coriander and red pepper) and cook until they start smelling extremely toasty and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Then stir in the smooshed tomatoes.
- Cook the smooshed tomatoes in the spices, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then, add the can of diced tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
- Add the cooked lamb back to the pot, give it a good stir, then cover the pot and leave it to cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. At this point, stir in the fresh spinach and cook just a couple more minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind you’ll be sprinkling just a touch of feta and olives on which will add to the saltiness).
- While the lamb and tomatoes are simmering together and marrying their flavors, bring a large pot of well salted water (it should taste like sea water, basically) to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 9 to 10 minutes, usually. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.
- Drain the orzo. Toss the orzo with the 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice and all of the parsley adding a bit of pasta water at a time if you feel it needs more liquid.
- Spread the orzo out on an enormous serving platter. Spoon the lamb and sauce all over the top, then sprinkle with the feta and chopped olives.