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VeganMoFo Day Twenty-Four: Stuff-I'd-Used-Half-Of Stew!

Posted Oct 25 2009 11:03pm
Sometimes I just... sort of... start... cooking. Without, like, a plan you know? I recently had such a night. I had a half a box of leftover something in the pantry, see, and I wanted to cook that. And I kind of just started finding what else was around the kitchen half used up, unloved, waiting to be put into some meal or other. This would be that meal!

Anybody wanna guess what I made? Was it some sort of weird jambalaya? Good guess but no. Rice-a-roni gone horribly awry? Close, but no cigar. It was a dish that has never been made before, will likely never be made again, was prepared using absurd methods, and yet somehow came out surprisingly tasty. You ready?

Orzo with okra and potatoes in a tomato based sauce! Didn't see that one coming, did you.

Well it happened like this. I decided I wanted to cook the half a box of orzo that had been hanging around the pantry. I like orzo veryvery much; it's a textural thing. But what to cook it with? Well I had to season it with something, and I spotted a red onion that had been languishing on our sideboard for ages. In another week it was sure to be a goner. So I sliced it up and set it to sautee... before I had any idea what else I was cooking. I figured I'd better do some quick searching.

First I came upon the half a bag of babynewred potatoes that I had left over from my corn chowder adventures at the beginning of the week. Sure, there's always something to do with potatoes. But since Jonathan loves a good starch on starch combo, why not? Orzo and potatoes would be weird on their own though, so my search continued. And there in the freezer, I found the perfect answer! A bag of okra that I'd bought a couple of months ago, and then forgot to put in the freezer when I got home with it, so that when I finally did freeze it it turned into one giant okracube. Great!

My onion being well sauteed, I tore open my bag of okra and just dumped it right on into the pan. I then looked over at my potatoes, which I had rinsed and cut up, and realized that they would take a while to cook. And so, I did something that I was glad Jon wasn't home to witness: I put the raw potatoes right in that pan at the same time with the giant frozen block of okra. People, this is the wrong way to cook. Please do not ever cook this way. Do as I say, not as I do. Do not try this at home. I added some stock from the omnipresent carton of it in our fridge, put the lid on, and hoped for the best. (Alright, by "hoped for the best" I do actually mean "checked on every two to three minutes, gently prying apart the pieces of okra, flipping over the okracube, and adding more stock as needed". Same diff.)

Well, eventually the huge cube-o-okra broke up and the pan was as it should be. I added a healthy dose of lemon pepper and "Italian Seasoning", and then I added the final ingredient - about a third of a carton of tomato soup! Whenever I eat orzo I want it to be kind of tomato-ey, see. Plus, I like okra and tomato, and I'm intrigued by the idea of combining tomato and potato. It all works! Round about this time I also put on a pot of water to boil (along with a cube of bullion) to go ahead and cook my orzo. Orzo takes a surprisingly long time to cook, what with it being as tiny as it is. Mine took a good 13 minutes or so. Which was fine, actually, because the potatoes needed more time to cook.

After approximately an hour from when I had begun my mad kitchen-raid adventure, all of the pieces were ready. I combined the orzo with the okra and potato mix in the pan and folded everything together. I thought the veggies were going to overwhelm the orzo, but I had it bass ackwards. Orzo apparently does a ton of expanding as it cooks. I turned the fire off, put the lid on, and let it set for a few minutes before serving. (By the bye, I think the color is pretty off in this pic. Apologies. Although, it wasn't exactly going to win any awards anyway, now was it?)

The biggest surprise of the night? The meal was kind of fantastic! You may have trouble believing this, and I don't really blame you. By all accounts it should have been terrible, or mediocre at best. I should have been punished for my evil ways. But no. The sauce and orzo were seasoned just perfectly, the potatoes were amazing with a buttery consistency and great flavor, and the okra was okra - we love okra. Jon and I agreed that it was delish, and we're both stoked that there are leftovers.

Sometimes strange things can happen in the kitchen.
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