Herb and Leek Orzotto with Fried Egg

October 24, 2018


It’s been over a year since my husband and I decided to greatly reduce the amount of meat (especially red meat) that we consume. How is that possible? It doesn’t feel like that long, and I can honestly say that we don’t miss it much. We eat lots of other proteins like fish and shellfish and eggs and beans and cheese and when we do eat red meat (maybe once a month) it’s a pretty small serving. You’re not going to see us tucking into a giant ribeye or attacking a rack of ribs. Once in a while a burger craving will kick in with a vengeance, but then we eat the damn burger and don’t feel bad.

Something funny actually happened a month or so ago; I was puttering around in the kitchen and my husband was working on his laptop. The Cooking Channel was on in the background (alas, the tinnitus is still with me so background noise is a daily necessity). I wasn’t paying much attention to it but I heard a gagging sound and my husband got up to find the remote control.

“Gaaaa, this show is so disgusting!” he said.

I looked up and it was a show called Man, Fire, Food. The host, Roger Mooking, travels all around the country to barbecues, pig roasts, and other meat-centric feasty things, sampling everything and lighting shit on fire.

At the moment, Roger was tearing through a whole side of Hawaiian suckling roast pig with vigor.

“Jesus, that guy just eats meat and meat and more meat,” my husband said. “I’m surprised that asshole doesn’t moo.”

I laughed. “Not the healthiest job in the world, eh?”

“Seriously, it’s just revolting to me now. I can’t even look at that much meat,” he said.

I have never been a huge meat eater, but I feel the same way.

Sorry, Roger Mooking. We turned you off. I don’t like watching barbecue cookoffs anymore, either and I sure as hell don’t want to watch Guy Fieri inhale a burger the size of his bloated skull. And don’t even get me started on Man vs Food, where the host tries to polish off a 4-pound corned beef monster sandwich in 45 minutes. Some sights are too vile to bear.


Now, don’t get me wrong. I haven’t turned into one of those militant eaters whose sole purpose in life is to make you feel crummy about your own dietary preferences. Honest, I don’t care what you like to eat. Whatever works for you is a-okay with me. I’ve been all over the place, diet-wise: I’ve been a strict vegetarian and I’ve gone full Paleo. I spent my college years eschewing fat and eating loads of refined carbohydrates. For years, I mainlined Diet Coke and Barnum’s animal crackers for breakfast (yes. for breakfast). I still sometimes consider two Bloody Marys a mighty fine and balanced breakfast. I’m no hero.

For now, putting a muzzle on the red meat is working for us. That may change in the future and that’s okay, too.

Since we’ve switched to more plant-based meals, I’ve become a big fan of what my husband calls “slap an egg on it.” I’ll plop an egg on almost anything: ratatouille, rice bowls, spaghetti primavera, arugula salads. I am still having a hard time consuming eggs in the morning (what is with that? I am officially weird), but any other time of day, I’m all over it. Egg me up, baby.

This recipe for orzotto is the perfect example of how an egg can gussy up a humble plate. Take some leeks, onions and some rice-shaped pasta, cook them together until it’s kind of risotto-like and creamy, gild the lily with a handful of tomatoes and a nice frizzled egg and you have dinner. Somehow, it all adds up to something much lovelier in the end than what you started with. I like that.

I’m not sure quite how our eating practices are going to change over the next few months (aka: holiday season) but I’m already on the lookout for some out-of-the ordinary vegetable dishes that will nourish us and make us feel cared for, even if there’s a giant ham on the buffet table. We shall see. I promise I’ll fill you in. Onward!



Herb and Leek Orzotto with Fried Egg

serves 4

slightly adapted from Cooking Light


4 cups unsalted chicken stock (you can use 2 cups vegetable stock+2 cups water in place of chicken stock if you want to make this vegetarian)

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup chopped sweet onion

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts chopped (about 2 1/4 cups)

1 cup orzo or whole-wheat orzo

1/3 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives, divided

2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided

1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest


Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-low. Keep warm.

Heat butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add onion and leek and saute about 10 minutes. Add orzo and toast for 2 minutes. Add the wine; cook about a minute or until liquid nearly evaporates. Add 2/3 cup warm stock to pan; cook 3 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add remaining stock, 2/3 cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion is absorbed before adding more.

Remove pan from heat; stir in parsley, 3 tablespoons chives, 1/3 cup parmesan, cherry tomatoes, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Crack eggs into pan and cook 2 minutes. Cover the pan and cook another minute or so or until desired degree of doneness.

Divide orzo among bowls. Top each portion with an egg, some chives, remaining Parmesan and remaining black pepper. Sprinkle lemon zest over.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie October 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Love eggs on top and love orzo! This has the hallmarks of a perfect cozy meal for me. We rarely eat red meat either and not only do I not miss it but my body isn’t terribly happy to digest it if we do eat it. It’s amazing how your digestive enzymes change when you don’t eat a food type for a long period of time.


Dana Talusani October 25, 2018 at 2:52 pm


Isn’t that weird how you become kind of intolerant to something if you rarely eat it? My husband is that way with fried food (I can’t eat it anymore because of the missing gall bladder)–once or twice a year when he eats his beloved fish and chips, he immediately regrets it after! His body revolts!


Lisa @ The Meaning of Me October 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

We also eat far less meat than we used to for various reasons. We have it when we want it ( I HEAR you about burgers), but other than thinking healthy, balanced, and what’s best for managing everyone’s particular mind and body needs, we don’t fall into any particular category. I can’t even think when I last bought steak. Years, probably. I’d say my husband misses meat more than the rest of us, but he isn’t exactly complaining, either. This looks great and what I like best is that you can do it with things that are usually in the house – at least around here.


Dana Talusani October 25, 2018 at 2:50 pm


The only thing I had to even shop for were the leeks, which aren’t a staple item for me. But I imagine you could do without them in a pinch!


megan phillips October 25, 2018 at 2:25 pm

sis…I hear you on the red meat thing. My anxiety causes me to (my therapist calls it) HUCK MEAT whether home or out to eat. My throat closes…bamm…out it comes. I take VERY SMALL bites of everything. Laurel is a vegan and I’m not there yet. Too much work with foodbank living… I was a vegetarian at CU and all I missed was Bacon, burgers and steak….what r you doing for Dad’s birthday? I ordered something COOL but it shippid on 10/19. and I can’t believe it isn’t delivered yet ??!!


Dana Talusani October 25, 2018 at 2:49 pm


I love cheese way to much to ever do the vegan thing! Never, ever.


elizabeth October 26, 2018 at 5:49 am

This looks really, really tasty, and I’m all for figuring out what’s right for you! If you’re looking for ideas, I have to say that Gail Simmons’ cookbook Bringing it Home has a lot of really good recipes that would be right up your alley–lots of good shellfish/seafood dishes and while there is the obligatory meat section, it isn’t as dominant as similar sections in other cookbooks can be, you know?


Dana Talusani October 26, 2018 at 6:06 am

Elizabeth, I really like Gail Simmons. Maybe I’ll ask Santa for her cookbook. Thanks for the tip!


Janet Lewis McClain March 2, 2019 at 11:39 am

I was looking for your shitake farro recipe (major craving!) and found this recipe. I have some leeks to use and this sounds delicious!


Dana Talusani March 3, 2019 at 1:05 pm

I really liked this dish. Let me know if you try it!


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