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Showing posts with label couscous. Show all posts
Showing posts with label couscous. Show all posts

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Election Eve Munchies

I want the election to be over. I'm tired of partisanship, attack ads and endless news cycles of pontificating pundits.
I want the election to be over as long as my candidates and propositions win. That's what I meant to say.

If my side needs more time to win the day, so be it. Take all the time you need.

Skin in the game
Every election cycle feels special. The stakes are always high. The choices game changing. The amount of campaign money spent on elections stupefyingly large.

If you are a conservative, you are convinced the moral fabric of the country is on the line. Our economic future is at risk. 

If you are a liberal, you have seen the Ryan budget and the writing is on the wall for all the Progressive advances since Teddy Roosevelt. If you care about social inequality and women's rights, you are bewildered by the seemingly unending attacks that come from Republican candidates.

On Election Night this Tuesday, given the number of key battle ground states and the voting difficulties created by super storm Sandy, conclusive results might not be forthcoming until late in the evening or early morning.

What you're going to eat on Election Night might not be the first thing on your mind, but after you've finished working the phone banks and you've driven the last person to the polls before they close, it's time to head to a TV at home or a friend's and be prepared for the long haul.

If you don't want to cook, have a collection of take-out menus available. That way you are only a phone call, your credit card and 45 minutes away from a table full of pizza, stir fried green beans with beef and salads with seasonal greens and homemade croutons.

On the other hand, if you want home cooked food, here are some easy-to-make favorites that we like to serve when we're watching the Super Bowl, NBA Playoffs and waiting to celebrate the beginning of another year.

Good luck to you and all the candidates you believe in and the propositions you are voting for.


Tapenade with Charred Garlic

A secret weapon in last minute cooking, tapenade brightens any meal either as an appetizer or a condiment. If you use pitted, canned olives, making tapenade will take 10-15 minutes.
 
The taste of your tapenade depends on the quality of the olives.

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 can pitted olives, drained weight 6 oz., preferably green or kalamata olives
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves with skins
¼ cup Italian parsley, washed, leaves only, roughly chopped
¼ teaspoon pepper flakes (optional)
Black pepper to taste

Directions

Skewer the garlic cloves on the end of a knife or a metal skewer and hold over a gas flame to burn off the outer skins. Let cool, remove any pieces of charred skin and roughly chop the cloves.

In a small blender or food processer, place the drained olives, olive oil, garlic, parsley and pepper flakes. Pulse until the olives are roughly chopped. Taste and adjust the seasoning with the addition of black pepper, sea salt, pepper flakes and olive oil.

Pulse again until the tapenade achieves the desired texture. Personally I like a tapenade that has a rustic look with the olives coarsely chopped rather than puréed.

Refrigerate until ready to use and serve at room temperature.

Variations

 2 anchovies packed in oil, roughly chopped and added with the olives. If salted, rinse before adding.

1 tablespoon capers added with the olives.

Lavash Crisps

Served in the Middle East, lavash and pita are commonly used instead of bread. Flat, unleavened lavash has a delicious, lightly grilled flavor when fresh. Making crisps makes use of lavash that might otherwise have gotten stale and gone to waste.
Lavash crisps have more flavor and are more flaky than commercially manufactured chips. Serve them with salsa, tapenade, dips or thin slices of cheese.

The crisps will last for weeks if kept refrigerated in an airtight container. 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small sheets of lavash
1 cup olive or safflower oil
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
5-6 paper towel sheets

Directions

Cut the lavash sheets into 2” squares by cutting the sheet in half, placing the halves on top of each other, cutting those in half and doing that again until the pieces are 2” wide. Cut the 2” wide strips into 2” squares and set aside. If not cooked immediately, store in an airtight container.

In a large frying pan or griddle, heat ¼ cup of the oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper and heat on a medium-low flame. Be careful not to burn the oil or cause it to smoke.

Lay a paper towel sheet on a large plate or baking sheet.

Add the lavash squares to the hot oil. Do not overlap. Using tongs, turn over the lavash when they are lightly browned and cook the other side. They cook quickly so watch them closely.

Remove the cooked crisps and place them on the paper towel. Cook another batch. Place a clean paper towel on top of each layer to absorb excess oil.

Replenish the oil in the frying pan as needed and season with sea salt and black pepper. Allow the oil to reach the proper temperature before adding more lavash.

Discard the paper towels when the crisps cool. Store refrigerated in an airtight container. Serve at room temperature.


Spaghetti and Shrimp

To build out the flavors, other ingredients can be added to this easy to make dish. Check out the variations below.
Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound shrimp, washed, shelled and deveined
1 pound spaghetti
2 cloves garlic, peeled, finely chopped
2 tablespoons yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley, washed, dried, leaves only, finely chopped
3 tablespoon sweet butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup pasta water
Sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Instructions

To help with timing the dish, make the pasta first.

Bring a gallon of water to boil in a large stock pot. Add kosher salt and pasta. Every five minutes use tongs to stir the pasta to keep it separated. Place a strainer in the sink along with a heat-proof cup to capture 1 cup of pasta water. In ten minutes or until the pasta is al dente (firm to the bite), strain the pasta and reserve the cup of pasta water.

Return the pasta to the still hot pot. Add 1 tablespoon sweet butter and 1 teaspoon olive oil, season with 1/4 teaspoon each, freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Stir well with tongs. Lay a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the pot to help the pasta retain heat.

Leave the shrimp whole or cut into bite sized pieces. In a large chefs pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute the shrimp until lightly pink. Remove the cooked shrimp from the pan. Add the garlic, onion and parsley and saute over a medium flame until lightly browned. Stir well to prevent burning. Add 2 tablespoons sweet butter, 2 teaspoons olive oil and 1/2 cup pasta water.

Simmer, reduce and taste. Add sea salt and pepper if needed.

Add the cooked pasta and shrimp. Stir well to coat with the sauce. Add small amounts of pasta water if more liquid is needed.  Toss well and serve with grated Parmesan.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup home made roasted tomato sauce to the saute.

Sprinkle 1/4 cup toasted bread crumbs on the pasta before adding the grated cheese.

Toss the pasta with 2 tablespoons finely chopped, crisp bacon.

Add 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes for heat.

Saute 4 shiitake mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced with the garlic, onions and parsley.

Saute 1 cup corn kernels with the garlic, onions and parsley.

Instead of shrimp, use lobster or scallops.


Couscous or Bulgar Salad with Celery

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup instant couscous or fine grained bulgar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 celery stalk, washed, leaves removed, finely chopped
1 scallion, washed, ends trimmed, finely chopped
5 Italian parsley sprigs, leaves removed, washed, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Boil the water. Put the couscous or bulgar into a bowl, add the water, stir, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.

Using a fork, fluff the couscous or bulgar, add the rest of the olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper to taste, toss with the celery, scallion, and parsley.

Serve at room temperature as a salad or a side dish.

Variations:

Add chopped raw tomatoes

Add Iranian cucumbers, washed, peeled, finely chopped

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

Add currants

Couscous or Bulgar with Grilled Vegetables

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup instant couscous or fine grained bulgar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large carrot, washed, peeled, ends removed, cut into 1" long slabs, 1/4" thick
1 large broccoli crown, washed, cut into 1" long slabs, 1/4" thick
5 Italian parsley sprigs, leaves removed, washed, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Boil the water. Put the couscous or bulgar into a bowl, add the water, stir, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.

Toss the carrots and broccoli pieces with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Grill or roast in a 350 degree oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool and finely chop.

Using a fork, fluff the couscous or bulgar, add the rest of the olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper to taste, toss with the cut up carrots and broccoli.

Serve at room temperature as a salad or a side dish.

Variations:

Add 1/4 cup corn kernels, seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, grilled or roasted

Add 1/4 cup olives, pitted, chopped

Add 1 cup spinach leaves, no stems, washed, roughly chopped



Egg Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Crisp Bacon

Crisp bacon bits adds another level of flavor and texture to egg salad. The bacon strips can be cooked first but better is to mince the raw bacon and saute the bits. That way, each bacon bit is nicely browned and holds a uniform shape.

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

4 farmers' market fresh large or extra large eggs
1 large carrot, washed, ends trimmed, peeled
1 ear of corn, tassels and husk removed, washed
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, washed, finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, finely chopped
2 strips of bacon, finely chopped, sauteed until crisp, drained
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots or scallion
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

I like to put the eggs into a pot of cold water, turn the flame to medium-high, and cook them for 30 minutes. Many people say that's way too long but it works for me. The yolks come out flaky, the whites dense. Rinse with cold water, take off the shells, and roughly chop.

Slice the carrot into flat slabs about 1/4" thick and 3" long.  Toss in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper.  Do the same with the ear of corn.  Grill until lightly browned all over or oven roast in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Turn frequently to avoid burning. Let cool.  Finely chop the carrots. Remove the kernels from the cobs.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped eggs, carrots, corn kernels, parsley, shallots, and crisp bacon bits. Toss. Season with sea salt and black pepper.  Add the mayonnaise and mix well.

Serve on bread, crackers, or lettuce leaves.

Variations

Add 1/4 cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped

Omit the bacon

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped, pitted olives

Roast 2 garlic cloves, tossed in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper until lightly browned, peel off the skins, finely chop the soft garlic and add to the egg salad

Add a dash of tabasco or a dusting of cayenne pepper for heat


Open Face BLT with Avocado

Use any kind of bread you love. Personally I prefer thin sliced French or Italian bread for my open faced sandwiches. Depending on the size of the loaf, you will need two to six slices per person.

My favorite bread for a BLT is the Italian bread from Bay Cities Deli in Santa Monica. Light with a thin crust, the bread perfectly compliments the sandwich's toppings.

To keep its shape, the slices should be lightly toasted.

Serves 4

Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

8-24 slices of bread, lightly toasted
8-10 slices of bacon
2 ripe avocados, washed
4 ripe large tomatoes, washed, stem and blossom end removed
8 romaine leaves, ribs removed, or a handful of arugula leaves without the stems, washed, dried
8-16 slices of bread and butter pickles (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper
Mayonnaise

Directions

Set the lightly toasted slices of bread aside to cool.

In batches, cook the bacon in a large frying pan or griddle on a medium-low flame. Turn the slices frequently for even browning, being careful to cook through all the fatty pieces. Place paper towels on a plate. When each bacon strip is cooked, lay it on the paper towel to drain.

While cooking, pour off excess grease into a coffee tin for later disposal.

Cut the cooked bacon pieces so they are the same length as the toasted bread slices.

Depending on your preference, make thin or thick slices of tomatoes and set aside.

When you are ready to assemble the sandwiches, cut the avocados in half, remove the peel and discard the pit. Since the avocado flesh will discolor once it is exposed to the air, do this last step just before serving.

Spread mayonnaise on each slice of lightly toasted bread, place avocado slices on the bread, covering the surface. Lay romaine or arugula leaves on the bacon. Add a slice of tomato, pickle slices (optional) and lastly the bacon slices. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with an ice cold beverage, a tossed salad and fresh fruit for dessert.

Variations

Lightly dust the avocado with cayenne for heat.

Instead of lettuce or arugula use watercress leaves for a peppery flavor.

Toss the avocado slices in a mix of 2 parts olive oil and 1 part fresh lemon juice before placing on the sandwich.

To make an open-faced melted cheese sandwich, lay thin slices of Irish or English cheddar cheese on top of the sandwich, place in a preheated, 350 degree toaster oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese, 1 minute in a toaster oven set on broil and cook until the top of the cheese lightly browns. Serve warm.




Saturday, November 20, 2010

Keep Them Simple, Keep Them Coming: Thanksgiving Appetizers, Side Dishes, and Salads

While turkey is the centerpiece on Thanksgiving, the appetizers, side dishes, salads and desserts reign supreme. Cranberry sauce, cornbread stuffing with sausages and dried apricots, mushroom and giblets gravy, green salads, beet salad, homemade pickles, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, string beans, squash...and the desserts: cakes, pies, custards, fresh fruit, cheese... 

The easier the recipes, the more you'll make. If Thanksgiving is nothing else, it is a celebration of variety and plenty, so here are some easy-to-make recipes we'll be making on Thursday.

Blackened Peppers with Capers, Parsley, and Garlic

The peppers should be made a day or two ahead.  To start, simply grill the peppers on top of a gas range, remove the blackened skin, discard the seeds, and put them in a sealed jar where they'll keep a week in the refrigerator or for months in the freezer.

Overnight the peppers will miraculously create their own "oil."

Use a mix of peppers so the result is that much more colorful. Chef's note: I haven't had as much success grilling green or purple peppers, so I stick to the red, yellow, and orange ones.


Yield: 6-8 servings

Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

3-4 red, yellow, or orange peppers, washed, pat dried
4 garlic cloves, skin on
1 tablespoon capers, drained, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley leaves, washed, dried, finely chopped
1/4 cup oil from the grilled peppers
4 anchovy fillets, finely chopped, optional

Method

The garlic can be used either raw or grilled. If cooked, they'll have a milder flavor, which I prefer. Leave the outer skin or paper on the garlic and skewer the cloves. Blacken them on an open flame on top of the stove until the skins have all but burnt away. Remove and finely chop.

Toss together the peppers, garlic, parsley, and capers. Return to the sealed jar and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Marinated Peppers as an Appetizer

Yield: 8 servings

Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients
2 cups marinated peppers (julienned or finely chopped)
1/2 pound soft cheese
Olive oil
Pepper flakes
Sea salt and pepper
Toast rounds or crackers

Method
Start with a thin slice of goat cheese, a triple cream, or mozzarella, lay on a strand of marinated pepper, 
and drizzle some of the pepper's own oil. There are variations to play with: add chopped avocado or scallions or cherry tomatoes or grilled corn...

Top with a little olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.

Roasted Whole Tomatoes

A side dish, full of flavor and perfect to serve alongside turkey and stuffing.


Ripe and over ripe tomatoes work best. If you shop at farmers' markets, keep an eye out for discounted tomatoes. 

When they're roasting, tomatoes give off a clear liquid. The flavor is pure essence of tomato. The wonderful chef, cookbook writer, and founder of Fra'ManiPaul Bertolli was famous for hanging tomatoes in cheese cloth and capturing the clear tomato water that he called "the blood of the fruit."

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 90 minutes

Ingredients

3 pounds ripe tomatoes (washed, stems removed)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the whole tomatoes on a Silpat sheet or a piece of aluminum foil on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Roast for 90 minutes. When the tomatoes are removed from the pan, be certain to spatula off all the seasoned olive oil and tomato water. That liquid is full of flavor. Spoon the liquid over the tomatoes.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30-45 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound Brussels sprouts, washed, stems trimmed, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Method

Toss the Brussels sprouts with olive oil and seasoning, put in a roasting pan with enough room so they don't sit on top of each other. Roast in a preheated 350 F degree oven 30-45 minutes, turning every 5-10 minutes for even cooking.

They'll come out of the oven so warm and sweet, they'll get eaten before they arrive at the table.


Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sautéed Shallots, Garlic, and Mushrooms

I prefer sweet potatoes that have a bright orange flesh. Find ones about the same size that are slender, appropriate as a single serving. 

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 2 1/2 hours

Ingredients

4 sweet potatoes, washed, skins on
2 teaspoons sweet butter
1 cup shallots, peeled, thinly sliced
1 cup brown or shiitake mushrooms, washed, dried, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves only, washed, finely chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
Cayenne (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees. Wrap each sweet potato in tin foil, place in the oven, turn every 30 minutes. 

Depending on your oven and the size of the sweet potatoes, they can take anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. When the sweet potatoes are soft to the touch, they are done.

While the sweet potatoes are in the oven, drizzle olive oil in a frying pan, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and sauté the shallots, garlic, parsley, and mushrooms until lightly browned.

Remove and discard the tin foil. Using a sharp paring knife slice each sweet potato the long way. With your fingers, push the sweet potato in from the ends so the cut section opens like a flower. 

Add 1/2 teaspoon of butter and a light dusting of cayenne (optional). Top with the shallot-mushroom sauté and serve.

Grilled Vegetables Couscous

Yield: 4-6 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Incredibly versatile, couscous can be as simple as you want with one or two ingredients or as complex and layered as you have time to prepare. 

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups couscous,  quick-cook style
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olives, cracked green or kalamata, pitted, finely chopped
1 basket cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered
1/4 cup capers, chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, leaves only, washed, finely chopped
1 ear of corn, husks and silks removed, washed
1 carrot, washed, peeled, trimmed, cut into slabs 4"x1/4"
2 garlic cloves, washed, trimmed
7 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

Drizzle 3 tablespoons olive oil onto a flat plate, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, roll the corn on the plate to coat with the seasoned oil. Do the same with the carrot slabs and garlic cloves. Reserve the seasoned oil.

Lightly brown on a hot grill or roast in a 350 F degree oven for 10-20 minutes, turning to avoid burning. Let cool , finely chop the carrots and garlic. Cut the kernels off the cob.

Boil the water. In a non-reactive, stainless steel or glass bowl mix together the couscous with the hot water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and a dusting of black pepper, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap, toss with a fork to break up all the pieces.

To the couscous, add the carrots, corn, garlic, parsley, capers, olives, cherry tomatoes, the seasoned oil used to marinate the vegetables and another 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss well. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt or black pepper. 

Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Variations

Add grilled broccoli, marinated and cooked the same way as the carrots).

Serve with arugula.

Serve with a sliced avocado.

Arugula Salad with Hazelnuts, Carrots, Avocado, and Croutons

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 bunch arugula, washed, stems removed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup raw hazelnuts
1 carrot, washed, peeled, cut into thin rounds
1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, roughly chopped
1/4 cup croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Method

On a low flame reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool. Roast the hazelnuts in a 350 F degree oven for 20 minutes, shaking the pan every 5 minutes to cook evenly. Remove, put into a dish cloth, rub roughly to remove the skins, let cool, and crush with the side of a chefs knife.

Put the arugula, hazelnuts, carrot rounds, croutons, and avocado into a salad bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season with sea salt and pepper. Toss and serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Now and Later Meals - Braised Chicken with Vegetables and (Later) with Couscous and Spinach

Originally posted on Kim Orlando's terrific web site, Traveling Mom.

One way to beat the dinner-time crunch is to cook once but create two meals. One meal to eat that night, the other to eat the next day or freeze in an air-tight container.

From experience I've found that braised chicken serves the cause very well. Because I know I want to use the chicken for two meals, I choose legs or thighs. Unlike chicken breasts, dark meat creates a savory sauce and doesn't dry out when braised.

Add a green salad and steamed rice, cooked pasta, mashed potatoes, or a fresh loaf of bread and you'll have an affordable, nutritious, healthy dinner.

Now: Braised Chicken with Farmers' Market Fresh Vegetables

The basis for the deeply flavored sauce is a technique familiar to many cuisines. Finely chopped vegetables are sauteed in an oil until lightly browned. Seasoned with spices, a liquid is added and reduced. In French it's called a mirepoix, in Spanish sofrito, and in Italian soffritto. The ingredients vary, but garlic and onions are pretty much constants.

For this dish I shopped at our local farmers' market and used onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli stems, brown mushrooms, and corn off the cob.

Most of the ingredients can be swapped out for others.

Instead of onions, I could have used shallots or leeks, any of which will caramelize and add sweetness to the sauce. I used broccoli stems because my kids only eat the crowns and I don't like throwing away the stems. You can use the crowns and zucchini, squash, and tomatoes as well.

When I made the dish last night, I kept the skins on, but if you want to lower the fat content, remove the skins.

Frozen in an airtight container, the dish will keep for weeks.

Yield 4 servings plus left-overs
Time 30 minutes preparation, 1 1/2 - 2 hours cooking

Ingredients

10 chicken legs or thighs, about 3 1/2 pounds, washed, pat dry
1 cup broccoli stems, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
1 cup carrots, peeled, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 cup brown mushrooms, washed, finely chopped
2 cups corn kernels from 2 ears of corn
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
3 cups water

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use a large covered pan like a Dutch oven or roasting pan. Heat the oil on a medium flame. Use tongs and add the chicken pieces. Season with sea salt and pepper. Turn frequently until the chicken is lightly brown, about 20 minutes. Remove and set aside. Discard the fat.

In the same pan, add the other tablespoon of olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper. Add all the vegetables. Lightly brown. Stir frequently to avoid burning, about 8-10 minutes.

Pour in 3 cups of water. Stir well to deglaze the pan so the flavor bits get into the liquid. Add back the cooked chicken pieces. Cover and put in the oven. After 60 minutes, use the tongs to turn over the chicken pieces. Cover and return to the oven for another 30-60 minutes.

The chicken is cooked when the meat is separating from the bone. Taste and adjust the seasonings with sea salt and pepper. If you want a thicker sauce, reduce the liquid over a medium flame.

To serve, place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the sauce on top.

Later: Chicken with Easy-to-Make Moroccan-Style Couscous

Assuming you have half of the chicken and sauce left-over, this dish takes very little time to prepare.

The sort of couscous served in Morocco is delicious but difficult and time-consuming to prepare. The "instant" kind can be found in some grocery stores, upscale, specialty and health food markets.

If you haven't used couscous before, meet your new best kitchen-helper.

Couscous costs pennies per serving and takes next to no effort to make. It can be served hot or cold, in a salad, as a side dish, or, as in this recipe, as a main dish.

Yield 4 servings
Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

4-5 chicken legs or thighs, cooked as above
2 cups sauce with vegetables, cooked as above
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 bunch spinach, washed to remove grit, stems removed, roughly chopped
2 cups whole wheat or regular "instant" couscous
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups water
Sea salt and pepper

Directions

Boil 2 1/2 cups of water. Put the couscous into a large boil. Pour the hot water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the bowl and stir well. Cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes, remove the covering, and fluff the couscous with a fork.

In a large pot, saute the cumin, turmeric, and garlic in the olive oil until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add the golden raisins, cooked chicken, sauce, and chopped spinach.

Stir well to submerge the spinach in the sauce--if you need more liquid, add a cup of water--and simmer 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Put the couscous in a large bowl, ladle the chicken and sauce on top and serve immediately. Alternately, portion out the couscous, chicken and sauce into individual bowls.

Tip: when I have the time, I'll take the meat off the bones to make the dish easier to eat. The kids definitely appreciate that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Grilled Vegetables and Grilled Vegetable Salads

Although most of the world thinks there are no seasons in Southern California, those of us who are natives know that isn't the case. In the winter, we are very definitely cold. When my wife and I walk on the beach, she wears a full compliment of winter wear: fur lined hat, gloves, sweater, and jacket.

We also feel winter's grip when the sun disappears in mid-afternoon, requiring lights to be turned on before 5:00pm. With the cold and darkness, these are not easy times. Certainly there are pleasures to be gotten from a crackling fire in the fireplace, hot soups filled with savory bits, and braised meats surrounded by an array of root vegetables. Admittedly those are sweet comforts, but they are brought front and center because our sagging spirits need propping up.

Spring in Southern California is a different matter altogether. Although there is still fog aplenty at the beach where we live, the days benefit from the warmth of the sun's strengthening rays.

Besides sensing the increase of daylight and warmth, we also know that spring has arrived because the local farmers' markets welcome back long forgotten friends. Corn on the cob, green garlic, all manner of flowers, squash blossoms, and stone fruit beginning with plums, pluots, apricots and apriums.

With the abundance of locally grown produce, the high points of my week are visits to the Wednesday Santa Monica and the Sunday Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market.

As a child I avoided contact with vegetables as much as I could. My mother's treatment of produce was ungenerous. String beans were boiled in salted water and then extracted, limp and submissive. Corn and English peas were taken from the freezer and overcooked in the same salted water, their flavor saved only by the large pat of butter that joined them in the serving bowl.

Leaving home, I pursued a different path, exploring the local farmers' markets and experimenting with vegetables I had only heard about but never eaten. One of my chief discoveries was that vegetables, like hamburgers and steaks, benefited from grilling.

Who does not love carrots drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper and cooked on a hot grill? Their carrot-essence acquires a caramelized sweetness that is irresistible. And what about the improvement of artichokes, Japanese eggplant, broccoli, corn, squash, zucchini, and even thin slices of Yukon Gold potatoes similarly coated with seasoned olive oil and placed on the grill?

So powerful are those flavors, I have to restrain myself from grilling every night.

Just about any vegetable can be grilled. Some, like tomatoes and asparagus, cook quickly and require an attentive hand to prevent charring. Others, like corn on the cob, take a bit longer and need to be turned frequently for even cooking. A few, like artichokes, require fifteen-minutes in boiling water before heading to the grill.

Grilling pulls out the essential flavor of each vegetable. Those qualities are enhanced by a simple dredging in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Once grilled, the vegetables can be served straight off the grill as a finger-food appetizer, a side dish, or even as an entree. But they can be so much more.

Chopped up, grilled vegetables can fill out a parsley salad. Mixed with couscous they make a savory side dish.

Once you start grilling vegetables, they'll become a secret weapon in your culinary adventures.

Grilled Vegetables

Yield 4 servings
Time 45 minutes

Ingredients

4 large carrots, washed, peeled, cut into slabs 1/4" thick, 2" long
2 broccoli crowns, washed, cut into slabs 1/4" thick, 2" long
1 bunch asparagus, medium sized or thick, washed, white ends trimmed off
1 ear of corn, husks and silks removed, washed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of black pepper

Method

Turn the grill on to medium and preheat for 10 minutes.

In a bowl, toss the vegetables and season with the olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Using tongs, put the vegetables on the grill.

Close the cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Turn and cook another 2-3 minutes, checking frequently to prevent burning. How long each vegetable takes to cook depends on your grill, the vegetable, and the thickness of the slices.

Have a serving plate handy so you have a place to put the cooked pieces when they're ready. Serve hot as a side dish or room temperature as finger-food appetizers.

Grilled Vegetable Chopped Salad

Cut the corn kernels off the cob. Roughly chop the other vegetables. Toss together. Add a bit more olive oil, taste, and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Grilled Vegetable and Parsley Salad

With the grilled vegetables as a starting point, the salad can be expanded by adding elements. In this case, parsley.

Ingredients

3 cups grilled vegetables, roughly chopped
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed, most of the stems removed, leaves finely chopped
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Mix together the chopped vegetables and parsley. Add more olive oil as needed, taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Variations

Add 1 avocado, peeled and chopped

Add 10 fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered

Add 1 tablespoon chopped scallions or red onion

Substitute cilantro for parsley

Add 1 hard boiled egg, finely chopped

Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Parsley

The salad becomes more substantial with the addition of easy-to-make couscous.

Yield 4 servings
Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 1/4 cups water, boiling
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Mix together 1 cup whole wheat couscous, the heated water, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir well, cover with plastic wrap and set aside 10 minutes, then fluff and cover again until needed.

In a bowl, mix together the chopped vegetables, parsley, and prepared couscous. Add a bit more olive oil, taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.

Variations

Add 6 grilled mushrooms, roughly chopped

Add 1 fresh avocado, roughly chopped

Add 10 grilled shrimps, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rosemary Fried Chicken

What a beautiful day! Perfect for taking a walk at the beach, shopping at our local farmers' market, cooking, and eating outside.

We've cleaned off the deck. Arranged tables outside for lunch. Prepared a carrot salad and a couscous with grilled vegetables, made kosher pickles and a pasta with braised beef and watercress, soaked chicken and onion rings in buttermilk for fried chicken, and baked a custard with chocolate.

Today will be a good day.

For me the fried chicken with onion rings is the centerpiece of the meal. I have strong childhood memories of my mom making fried chicken when we went to Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica. Nothing Colonel Sanders ever made came close.

Rosemary Fried Chicken

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes to prepare, marinate the chicken overnight in buttermilk

Ingredients

1 whole chicken, washed, cut apart, wing tips and bones reserved to make chicken stock
1 quart buttermilk
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts safflower or canola oil

Method

When you cut up the chicken, separate the two parts of the wing and cut the breast meat off the bone. Keep or discard the skin as you wish. The breasts can be left whole but will cook more evenly when cut into strips or tenders.

Toss the chicken pieces with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Put the pieces in a container, add the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of the rosemary, stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Using a wok or deep frying pan, heat the cooking oil to 325 - 350 degrees or until a piece of parsley browns immediately when dropped in the oil. Before you begin cooking, prepare your counter. Have a slotted spoon or an Asian style strainer ready. Lay two paper towels on top of a piece of brown grocery bag paper on a large plate.

Reserve 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to use just before serving.

In a brown paper bag mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, rosemary, cayenne (optional), sugar (optional), and onions (optional). Remove one piece of chicken at a time. Shake off the excess buttermilk, drop it into the paper bag with the seasoned flour, close the top of the bag, and shake. Repeat with all the pieces, assembling them on a plate or cutting board.

Cook the chicken in batches. Gently drop each piece into the hot oil, making sure it doesn't don't touch the other pieces so each one cooks evenly.

Turn over when browned on one side. Remove when golden brown and drain on the paper towels. The pieces will cook quickly: chicken tenders (breast) 2-3 minutes; wings 7-8 minutes; thighs & legs 10-12 minutes.

Just before serving, lightly dust the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of rosemary, sea salt and pepper.

If you are making deep fried vegetables like onion rings or broccoli florets, they cook even more quickly: thick rings cook in 30 seconds, thin rings in 5-6 seconds; broccoli in 30 seconds. Soak the vegetables in the seasoned buttermilk for a few minutes, then process like the chicken pieces.