Tag Archives: marjoram

Grilled Shrimp and Spring Orzo

Nothing says spring like fresh local asparagus. The season is about done here and the grocery store stock later on will not be as tender, probably because it’s picked too early wherever it comes from. Our local asparagus, even when the stalks look too thick, is always tender and the taste is incomparable. I wanted something grand to pair with the asparagus and the large Louisiana shrimp at Wegman’s was just the right item.

Everything but the orzo was grilled, then it was all combined at the last minute. Cooking the orzo in chicken stock created it’s own sauce, so it was really easy. I added one diced canned San Marzano tomato, some fresh garlic, and parsley to the stock as it was simmering to round out the flavors.

Grilled Shrimp and Spring Orzo

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: requires grilling skills
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  • 1 1/2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grated or roasted garlic
  • 2 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Mix all marinade ingredients and add to the shrimp in a large resealable bag. Toss to coat and refrigerate for a couple of hours. Just before grilling the shrimp, thread onto skewers. I don’t add salt until the shrimp are on the skewers ready to grill.


Set up your grill for about 350°-400°; I used 60 charcoal briquettes, turning them out of the chimney into the center of the grill.

  • 2 large orange, red, or yellow bell peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 medium onions, cut in thick slices
  • 1 lb or more asparagus stalks, trimming if necessary. I only added the 3″ tips to my dish, saving the grilled ends for other uses during the week.
  • extra virgin olive oil to drizzle on vegetables
  • salt & pepper
  1. Grill all the vegetables in stages, or as they fit on your grill. Set each aside until all are finished. I peeled my peppers when they were done.
  2. Asparagus tips: Place crosswise on the grill grate over direct heat, turning as needed to get some char on all sides, but not so much that they are burnt. then move them to the outer sides of the grill to continue cooking over indirect heat until done. I came this close to not dropping any through the grate until I was taking them off:
  3. Prepare the orzo before you grill the shrimp. Grill the shrimp at the last minute and place over the top of the pasta. Grill over direct heat just until done, only a few minutes on each side until all the shrimp are pink.
  • 8 oz whole wheat orzo
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2-1 cup water
  • 1 chopped canned plum tomato
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated or roasted garlic

Bring all the ingredients to a low boil, stirring often so the orzo doesn’t stick to the pan, then simmer for about ten minutes or until the orzo is tender. Stir in the chopped grilled vegetables, then top with the grilled shrimp.




Roasted Ratatouille

no skillets were harmed in the making of this dish

I usually sauté a ratatouille in stages in a large skillet, adding the tomatoes at the end to bring it all together. Today, I’m going to roast it all in one big dish, even the bacon, still adding some crushed tomatoes at the end. I just wish a had more than a few garlic cloves to throw in, but those few will have to do. I’m going to try to keep all the vegetables cut to the same size, not too small, and use enough olive oil, keeping in mind that the bacon is going to add its own fat. I’m using a smoked, thick-sliced bacon from a local butcher, maybe just 2-3 slices, so it’s not overwhelming. My poor husband will be eating a ribeye and some roasted zucchini, because he has silly opinions of eggplant and mushrooms.

It’s a cold, winter day, so having the oven on is a bonus, one that I would prefer to standing at the stove on a Saturday. I used two old standby Pyrex dishes, the 3 and 4 quart oblong sizes, to fit in all the ingredients, sprinkling the bacon over the tops to brown up and drizzle their bacony goodness all over. The glass baking dishes were a real mess, but I’m giving the dishwasher a chance to redeem them.

Roasted Ratatouille

  • Servings: depends on if you share
  • Difficulty: easy
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Preheat oven to 400°

1 medium-large eggplant

10 oz Baby Bella mushrooms

1 large onion

1 large red bell pepper

I medium-large zucchini

3-5 unpeeled cloves of garlic

3 slices thick bacon

6 oz crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

lots of olive oil

salt & pepper

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

  1. Clean then cut all the vegetables in a large dice; I quartered the mushrooms and cut the zucchini in angled chunks. Toss each separately in olive oil to coat and place in glass baking dish. I kept each vegetable in a separate row in case any were done sooner than the others and needed to be removed—none did. I had too many to all go in one dish. The eggplant went in a dish of its own, topped with the unpeeled garlic cloves.
  2. Salt and pepper all the vegetables, then sprinkle diced bacon over the top. This allows you to see when the bacon is browned and to remove it, if needed.
  3. Roast at 400° for 45 mins. Remove from oven, but keep the oven on. Combine all the roasted vegetables in one dish.
  4. Press roasted garlic out of cloves and mix with tomatoes and herbs. Toss vegetables with the tomato mixture, mounding it in the center of the dish.
  5. Return to oven for about 5 minutes or until hot and a little bubbly.
  6. Serve with lots of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. I prefer this to mixing in the cheese, because it reheats better. Then you can always add the cheese in whatever way you are eating the ratatouille—with polenta or scrambled eggs, for example.


My husband is eating out all week with job candidates, so I’m taking the opportunity to eat eggplant.

The first ratatouille, or more specifically “Ratatouille Provençale,” I ever made was from my Joy of Cooking (1967, p. 278). When I was young, I didn’t know anything about eggplant, and was surprised to see so many recipes for it in this book. The only eggplant recipes I had seen on TV were the breaded and fried sliced variety, usually smothered in tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. That did not look appetizing to me, but more like the cooks were trying to cover up something that was either tasteless or bad-tasting. When I finally decided to try this casserole, I did feel like the flavors were exotic and rich, even spicy.

I have since learned that recipes vary, and while tonight’s is very close to that first one, I’m adding some mushrooms and bacon, but skipping the zucchini, and the peppers and onions were roasted on the grill last night, which should add a nice twist to the dish. Next time, I’ll try grilling all the ingredients and then doing a quick combine and simmer at the end. Parmesan cheese and olive oil will round out the flavors, but I will miss the parsley I lost in my recent freezer disaster. Some dried marjoram will fill in for the herb.


  • Servings: 4 as main dish; 8 as a side
  • Difficulty: easy
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Basically a stew, but all the ingredients should be cooked until just done and not mushy. I cook each ingredient separately, and then combine at a simmer for just about 5 minutes, to keep the flavors distinctive. I would not use the 45 minute simmer mentioned in the recipe pictured above.

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced

4 slices thick bacon, cooked to chewy doneness and roughly chopped

1 medium eggplant, cut in half inch dice, about 2 1/2-3 cups

1-2 small onions, roughly chopped

1-2 bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and roughly chopped

1 tablespoon garlic, grated or minced or roasted

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

13 oz good quality crushed tomatoes, drained with liquid reserved (I used Cirio crushed tomatoes)

olive oil for sautéing

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated for garnish

salt and pepper to taste (I like to season each layer lightly)

As mentioned, my onions and peppers had been roasted on the grill, then the peppers were peeled and both were chopped; otherwise, I would cook them using the following process:

  1. Heat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan and allow to heat for a minute. Add the sliced mushrooms and let sauté until brown without stirring. Stir for another minute or two, then remove to dish. I like to cook mushrooms first in a clean pan for most dishes, so they are allowed to brown and develop flavors without absorbing those of the other ingredients.
  2. Add the bacon slices to the same pan and cook over medium heat to desired doneness. I like chewy bacon, not crisp. remove to cutting board and chop.
  3. To pan with bacon drippings that is still over medium heat, add about 1 tablespoon more olive oil, then the diced eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes. The eggplant will absorb all the fat and begin to appear translucent. Remove to a large bowl.
  4. Add 1-2 tablespoons more olive oil over medium heat, then the onions, peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes, or until done to your liking.
  5. Add back the eggplant and mushrooms. Reduce heat to low. Stir in the drained tomatoes and marjoram, adding any of the reserved tomato juice as needed for a moist but not soupy consistency. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes until heated through.
  6. Remove to serving dish and add cooked bacon and grated cheese.

Save some for topping your scrambled eggs in the morning.

Converting a Recipe: “Decadent Pork Ragu” in a Slow Cooker

I couldn’t get that recipe that I re-blogged earlier this week out of my head, but I wanted to do something a little different with it, so I converted it to a slow-cooker recipe. The original recipe is from The Travelling Pantry (see my re-blog from September 30).

I’ve become so stuck on cooking pork shoulder for pulled pork sandwiches, that they are on the verge of becoming boring. Well, that’s a stretch, because pulled pork is one of those delights that are hard to beat. Maybe they have just become too easy to cook without making a mistake. Whatever the case, this recipe has led me to think of other things to do with the shredded meat, so I’m starting with it, and we’ll see what else I can come up with on my own later.

I’m using the slow cooker method that I posted on September 24, but with the ingredients from The Travelling Pantry. I noticed that the original recipe calls for crushed tomatoes, and I had been planning to make some for the freezer, so it was really serendipity that this recipe crossed my path at the same time my garden was pushing more tomatoes on me—really, October and the tomatoes are still ripening?

So, what prompts you to convert a recipe? Is it mostly based on what you have or don’t have in your pantry? Is it some ingredient that you fancy using, maybe for the first time? Or do you have a few recipes in your repertoire that you just know together would make an even better dish?

Then how do you go about converting recipes? Usually, I just boldly say yes or no to some of the ingredients, and just as boldly add what I think will work. In this conversion, I mostly followed the ingredients from the original recipe, but used the slow cooker method of cooking. My biggest concern was that I would have more liquid in the sauce, both from using the slow-cooker and from any difference between my homemade crushed tomatoes and canned ones. I’ll give ingredient comparisons and substitutions in the recipe.

Make sure you see the professionally-styled photos on the original recipe site.


'Decadent Pork Ragu' in a Slow Cooker

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy-moderate
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Adapted for the slow cooker from The Travelling Pantry.com

1 2.5-3 lb boneless pork butt, netting removed (Original: 1 kg boneless pork shoulder, cut in half)

3.5-4 cups homemade or canned crushed tomatoes (Original: 800g crushed or tinned cherry tomatoes)

1 medium onion, 1 leek, 1 rib celery, sliced (Original: 1 each of onion, leek and celery stalk – finely chopped)

1.5 tablespoons olive oil (Original: 1 ½ tbsp. olive oil)

12 oz thick-sliced bacon, diced (Original: 350g pancetta, finely diced)

1/2 cup beef stock (Original: 150ml Madeira)

1 cup deli black olives, not oil-cured (Original: 200g black Ligurian olives, pitted) [I couldn’t find that kind of olive anywhere and still have no idea what they are.]

2 tablespoons marjoram leaves (Original: 11/2 tbsp marjoram leaves, plus extra to serve) [I forgot about the extra and whirred them all up in the blender.]

2 tablespoons butter (Original: 30g butter, coarsely chopped)

1 lb pasta that holds up to a heavy sauce; I used Wegmans Organic Riccioli (Original: 750 dried pasta [“rigatoni works well, I used Mafadelle on this occasion”])

Parmesan cheese, grated for garnish (not in original ingredient list, but added at end of post—I missed it the first time)

  1. Sauté onion, leek, and celery in olive oil over medium heat with light salt and pepper seasoning. Remove to slow cooker.
  2. In same pan, brown diced bacon. Remove to slow cooker. I suspect the substitution of bacon for pancetta might have made the biggest difference in the final taste. My bacon was apple wood smoked. Pancetta is not smoked, but cured in salt and dried.
  3. In same pan, heat crushed tomatoes to warm if they have been refrigerated. Add to slow cooker.
  4. Add beef stock to slow cooker. This addition is why my sauce looks more brown in the photo with the meat added, above.
  5. Set aside olives, marjoram leaves, and butter until pork is cooked.
  6. Set pork butt on top of sauce and vegetables. Lightly salt and pepper.
  7. Cover slow cooker. If your slow cooker has a timer, set it for 6 hours and cook on high.
  8. Carefully remove meat to a platter. The pork will be falling apart and should be lifted with large slotted spoons or spatulas so that all the vegetables remain in the sauce. Shred the meat with two forks.
  9. Making the sauce: The original recipe calls for blending the vegetables and sauce with an immersion blender, and this would be the easiest method. I don’t have one, plus I worried about have too much liquid, so I removed the vegetables with a long-handled skimmer to a blender and processed to purée. Pour the purée and as much remaining liquid as needed to make a sauce that is thick enough to coat the pasta into a medium saucepan. I ended up using all the remaining liquid, to my surprise. I was afraid I would have to thicken the sauce, but it was not necessary.
  10. Add butter and marjoram to sauce and heat through. As I noted above, I added all the marjoram to the vegetables in the blender without reserving any for appearance. It didn’t hurt, except aesthetically.
  11. Return sauce and shredded meat to cooker to keep warm while cooking pasta according to package directions.
  12. Add pasta to meat sauce and toss. Conversely, you could plate pasta and add sauce to each plate.

This is a very flavorful dish and a nice alternative use of shredded pork suitable for the fancy dinners described in the original recipe. I have no idea how the taste compares to the original and probably won’t be flying to Australia any time soon to find out, but we liked it very much.

I also missed that the original recipe serves grated Parmesan at the table, but we are eating it again tonight and I will definitely be adding that.