Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Perfectly Paired - Israeli Couscous With Zucchini, Mint & Pomegranate

You know we love Israeli (also known as Pearl) Couscous because we feature a new recipe for it just about once a year (check out the latest HERE and HERE). Today's version of our trusty favorite side dish was inspired by a creation my BFF made during one our girls trips to the Catskills (read about that awesome smorgasbord HERE). 

Israeli Couscous with Zucchini, Mint & Pomegranate

Prepping the ingredients, Photo: NK
Her creation stood out to me because it ingeniously included tart and crunchy Pomegranate Arils - a great pairing with the peppery Arugula she mixed in - so good! Our version brings together some great Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors like Mint, Lemon, and of course, Pomegranate. Raw Zucchini is one of my favorite veggies, so we threw it together with a salty, firm cheese called Kashkaval. Pairing these ingredients rounds out the acidic components of the Couscous.  Feel free to use any kind of salty cheese you like (Feta or Ricotta Salata might be easier to find). Whatever you do, find a reason to make this couscous for yourself to bring a little excitement to even the most basic main. Enjoy! 

Couscous With Zucchini, Mint and Pomegranate
Serves 4

1 Cup Israeli Couscous
2 Cups Water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Large Shallot, very thinly sliced
3 heaping Tablespoons Fresh Mint Leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
4 Ounces Kashkaval Cheese or other firm, salty cheese, cut into a small dice
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 small Zucchini, thinly sliced, then each round cut into fourths
1/2 Cup Pomegranate Arils (from about half a Pomegranate)
Zucchini, Photo: NK 

1. Heat oil over medium-low heat in a small sauté pan. Add shallots and cook, stirring until translucent slightly golden, about 6 minutes. 

2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, toast the Couscous over medium heat, stirring, until some of pearls have become golden, 2-3 minutes. Add the Water and Salt, and bring to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer. Cook 8-10 minutes until the liquids have dissolved. 

3. Turn off the flame and add Zucchini, Mint, and Lemon Juice. Allow to come to room temperature. 

4. When ready to serve, stir in Pomegranate Arils and Cheese cubes. Serve room temperature or 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Veggie Remix - Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Spicy Asian Glaze

Sometimes simplicity can be glorious. Other times, a little pizzaz goes a long way. Today we are after the latter as we share how basic roasted Brussels Sprouts, warm and crispy on the outside, are absolutely stunning when glazed with the easiest sweet and spicy reduction. This is the perfect side for an Asian-inspired dinner, and with just a few steps, it practically makes itself.  
Easy As Ever - Roasted Sprouts With Spicy Asian Glaze, Photo: NK

Not for the spice averse, this versatile glaze (drizzle it on meats or starches) packs a wallop. Sprouts are such great winter greens, there's no excuse not to throw these together tonight. If you don't already have Soy Sauce, Rice Vinegar or Sriracha, they are versatile pantry items to have on hand for creating Asian-inspired fare all year long. Enjoy!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts With Spicy Asian Glaze
Serves 6

For the Sprouts: 1.5 Pounds Brussels Sprouts
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
Ground Szechuan Peppercorns (optional)

For the Glaze:
2 Tablespoons Low Sodium Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Rice Vinegar
1 1/4 Tablespoons Sriracha 
1 Tablespoon Honey

Method:1. Preheat the oven to 400. 
2. Cut off the base of the Brussels Sprouts and then slice them in half the long way.
Place on a baking sheet and toss them in Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or Sesame Oil if you like). Sprinkle lightly with Salt. Add a sprinkle of Szechuan Peppercorn if you like it extra spicy.

3. Bake for 35 or more minutes, shaking the pan a few times throughout the cooking to encourage even cooking. 

4. Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining all the ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring the ingredients to a bubble over medium high heat, then lower to a simmer and allow it to reduce, stirring occasionally, until it is down to about half its volume. Do not leave unattended as glaze can burn if the heat is too high.The consistency should be syrupy and glaze will coat a spoon. Turn off the heat and set aside. 

5. When Brussels Sprouts are finished they will be golden and a bit crispy. Plate them and then drizzle over with the glaze. Serve right away! 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Italian Pasta Classics - Fusilli Puttanesca

Happy New Year! It will shock no one that we resolve to cook and, more importantly, eat even more great food in 2015. I hope you'll come along for the ride. To this end, it is time again for Italian Pasta Classics, and this week, we are exploring one of most storied sauces Southern Italy has ever given us - Puttanesca. It also happens to be one of my top five favorite pasta preparations of all time - capers, olives, anchovies - I ask you, what's not to love!?  Now to the name, oh, the name. Yeesh. Puttanesca means, how to put this, in the style of the... not-so-nice-word for practicers of the proverbial "oldest profession." The more you know, as they say. 

Puttanesca Sauce, Photo: NK 

There are various accounts of origins of this deliciously easy dish. Probably the most ubiquitous is the anecdote that Pasta Puttanesca was something quickly thrown together from common pantry items, thus making it the ideal sustenance for these working women in between appointments. For my own part, I was surprised to learn that the dish, or at least the name, is relatively young. Several sources trace it only as far back as the middle of the 20th century (figures, right?).  As food lore goes, the popularly accepted story of Puttanesca is pretty well known, however I recently read a very interesting article that posited that despite the name, the dish may not have had much to do with sex workers at all. The author aptly notes that "Sex workers aren't the only people who appreciate quick, aromatic meals." Her theory on the origin has been batted around before, though less often. Check out the full article hereAs you will note, there's not to an exact recipe for this dish conceived in imprecision, but I invite your to try our favorite iteration of it today. What you do after you eat it is most definitely your own business. Enjoy! 

Fusilli Puttanesca
Serves 4 as an entree 
Castelvetrano & Gaeta Olives, Photo: NK
Lightly Adapted from Lidia Bastianich
1 35 Ounce Can whole San Marzano Tomatoes 
1 Pound Fusilli
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil plus more for drizzling
3 Large Garlic Cloves, smashed
1 Cup Gaeta or similar Olives
3/4 Cup Castelvetrano Olives, or other meaty, firm and bright green variety such as Cerignola
5-6 high quality Anchovy Fillets
1/2 Cup Italian Parsley, chopped
1/4 Cup Capers, rinsed
1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
Toasted breadcrumbs (if you need a topping, but not usually necessary)

1. Start a large pot of salted water boiling for the pasta. Add the Fusilli as soon as it comes to a boil and cook for 9 minutes for al dente. 

A sauce that is both gorgeous & flavorful, Photo: NK
2. Pit the Olives by smashing them with a heavy, flat object such as the bottom on the pan and removing the pit. Coarsely chop the Olives and set aside.

3. In a very large skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the Garlic Cloves and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes until they begin to brown. Place the Anchovies in the pan and break the up a bit using a wooden spoon. Add the Olives and cook 2 more minutes until they sizzle. Add the Tomatoes along with their juices and mash them using a potato masher until the large chunks are broken up. Add the Crushed Red Pepper.

4. Allow sauce to boil and then lower the heat to where it stays at an energetic simmer. Cook for 5 minutes and add the Capers. 

5. By this time your pasta should be done. Drain it through a colander and add the pasta to the skillet containing the sauce. Turn up the flame to medium and add the Parsley. Stir. Remove skillet from the flame and check for seasoning (a very little bit of salt may be needed) and serve! 
**Special thanks to Cousin Julie for the delicious homegrown and hand canned tomatoes!!