Tag Archives: couscous

TasteTravel – Alaska: Tutka Bay Lodge and a recipe for Shrimp, Kale and Israeli Couscous

tbl_AA5D_MG_1283-325x325It would have been simpler to meditate. Instead, last summer I traveled to Alaska. More specifically, I traveled 3,000 miles on three planes of diminishing size, and one water taxi to Tutka Bay Lodge. Tutka Bay sits at the mouth of a rugged seven-mile fjord stretching into the glacier capped Kenai mountains, 125 air miles south of Anchorage. It’s not accessible by road, only by sea plane or a water taxi from Homer which multitasks as a mail and food delivery, garbage collection, and all-purpose shuttle. If you want to get away from it all, this is for you. It’s well worth the trip.

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Before you pack your compass, first aid kit, and water purification tablets, let’s be perfectly clear. This is not roughing it. This is not even glamping. This is wilderness isolation in extreme comfort. You will find yourself in a lodge, tucked into plush beds in cozy private cabins, waited upon 24/7 by an attentive staff, and dining in a first class restaurant. Sure, you are in the remote wilderness on a spit of land flanked by a rugged fjord and craggy mountains dotted with old growth Sitka spruce. Yes, that’s an ancient volcano looming in the distance, waiting ever so patiently for another opportunity to express itself. Indeed, you will be sharing your outdoor space with resident bald eagles, floating otters, and possibly an orca or two. You will also be pampered, fed and catered to in a lodge staffed with servers doubling as mountain guides, valets doubling as naturalists, and professional chefs doubling as culinary instructors in a teaching kitchen converted from a re-purposed two-story crabbing boat.

Widgeon Lynda Balslev

Tutka Cooking Class Lynda Balslev

Halibut The point is that there is something for everyone at Tutka, with the most notable activity being nothing. Because, while your every whim will be addressed and serviced, your tummy fed, your fitness itch scratched, your need for nature connected, you will find yourself in the most spectacular vignette of nowhere, amidst staggering scenery and blissful solitude. Activities are plentiful, and peace is everywhere, which yields the treasure of perspective and balance. So, whether you crave a weekend or a week to find your center, this is the the place to be. Just leave yourself a day to get there.

alaska makos taxi

Tutka kayaks Lynda Balslev
The following recipe is inspired by a delicious memory from Tutka Bay Lodge.

Shrimp Kale and Israeli Cousous
Serves 4 to 6

Alaska Shrimp Tutka

Ingredients:
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Israeli cousous
2 cups chicken stock, plus 1/4 cup
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound large (18/20) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails intact
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
1 bunch purple kale, tough ribs removed, torn into 2-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, minced

Method:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the couscous and stir to coat. Cook until the couscous is light golden, 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Carefully add the 2 cups stock. Reduce heat to low, then cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Keep warm.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. Add the shrimp in one layer to the skillet. Cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, turning once. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate.

In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil and the red chili flakes over medium heat. Add the kale and garlic and sauté until the kale leaves begin to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the 1/4 cup stock and continue to sauté until liquid evaporates, about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Season with salt.

To serve, divide the couscous between serving plates or shallow bowls. Top with the kale. Arrange the shrimp over the kale. Garnish with fresh snipped herbs such as oregano, thyme leaves and chives.
Homer View Lynda Balslev

Top 3 photos courtesy of Tutka Bay Lodge. All other photos by Lynda Balslev.

Warm Cauliflower Couscous with Lemon and Chiles

Cauliflower couscous tfCauliflower Couscous – Posted by Lynda Balslev

The secret to this fabulous side dish is cauliflower – not as an addition to a salad of couscous grains, but as a replacement. That’s right – it’s all cauliflower, finely chopped to the size of couscous or rice grains, then tumbled with lemon, chiles and fresh herbs. Cauliflower holds its texture beautifully, either raw or, in this case, sautéed, providing a mild, nutty flavor and firm bite that will likely leave your dinner guests stymied and then pleasantly surprised. And not only is it a healthy ingredient, it provides a great gluten-free option to a grain side dish.

Warm Cauliflower Couscous with Lemon and Chiles
Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish

1 small head cauliflower
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 thin scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely chopped
1 gypsy sweet pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Remove the leaves and core of the cauliflower. Coarsely chop the florets and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the florets until they are finely chopped, 10 to 12 times.
2. Heat the oil and melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and salt and sauté until beginning to color, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red chili flakes, paprika, and cumin. Continue to cook until the cauliflower is tender but not mushy, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Lamb Merguez Patties with Couscous Salad

merguez tastefood

~ Moroccan Spiced Lamb Merguez Patties ~

Feeling spicy? When I crave a good dose of spice and fragrance I head to Asia, the Middle East or North Africa…in my dreams. In reality I head to my kitchen, where I fling open the spice cabinet and get cooking. I made these merguez patties recently when I was craving the heat and heady flavors of Morocco: harissa, garlic, coriander and mint. These feisty patties hit the spot – well, an airline ticket would have really hit the spot, but, hey, this was a pretty good stand in for a school night.

What really tipped these patties for me was the use of whole spices that I toasted and ground in my mortar. If you haven’t tried doing this, then you are missing a big component in the flavor department. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, and the results are well worth it. Whole spices are readily found in the spice section of your supermarket, gourmet and spice shops – even online. When you are ready to use the spice, toast the seeds  in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Then transfer to a spice grinder or a mortar, and blitz or pound the spices until fine. The flavor is lightyears better than the pre-ground stuff.

Spicy Lamb Merguez with Couscous Tabbouleh
Makes 18 to 20 patties

1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 pounds ground lamb
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons harissa paste
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Toast the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Grind to a fine powder in a mortar with pestle. Transfer the remaining merguez ingredients to a large bowl. Add the toasted spices and mix until combined without overworking the meat. Form in 2 to 3 inch patties. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling. Grill over direct high heat or pan-fry in olive oil over medium-high heat, turning once, until brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.  Serve with couscous salad (recipe below), pita bread, Greek yogurt, fresh mint and extra harissa if you’re feeling really spicy.

Couscous Salad
This is a great side dish to accompany the lamb or any grilled meat. Or crumble feat cheese over the salad for a light vegetarian meal.

1 1/2 cups couscous
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 English cucumber, seeded, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the couscous, water, lemon juice and olive oil in a large bowl. Let stand until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Weeknight Dinners: Spicy Chipotle Chicken and Couscous Salad

Chipotle Chicken TasteFood~ Spicy Chipotle Chicken, Herbed Couscous Salad, Hummus ~

Are you having the weeknight dinner doldrums? Are you hungry and craving something exciting, yet stumped for time and inspiration? Look no further than this easy recipe, packed with spice and chipotle heat. It’s a cinch to make: Begin to marinate the chicken the night or morning before roasting. Then go about your daily whirlwind of work and activities. 30 minutes before dinner, pop the chicken in the oven (or on the grill), and before you know it you’ll have a zingy dish that will shake up any ho hum dinner routine. Serve with salad, rice or couscous. I had some hummus sitting in the fridge, which I served as an accompaniment. A squeeze bottle of Sriracha will stand in nicely.

chipotle chicken tastefood

Spicy Chipotle Chicken and Couscous Salad

Serves 4 to 5

Marinade:
1/4 cup chipotles in adobo sauce
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
Bamboo skewers, pre-soaked at least 30 minutes

Couscous Salad:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced, finely diced
1 small jalapeno seeded, finely diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the chicken:
Process all of the marinade ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Place the chicken in a bowl. Add marinade and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven broiler or prepare grill. Thread chicken on skewers. Discard marinade. Broil or grill over direct medium heat until brown and thoroughly cooked through, turning once or twice, about 10 minutes.

For the couscous:
Place couscous in a large bowl. Add water, lemon juice, olive oil, cumin and salt. Stir once. Cover and let stand until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Add remaining ingredients. Gently mix to thoroughly combine. Taste for salt and seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Farmer’s Market Provençal Salmon Couscous

~ Salmon, Cherry Tomatoes, Eggplant, Peppers, Leek, Couscous ~

It’s Provençal vegetable season. Peppers, eggplants, squash and tomatoes are impossible to miss (and resist) at the farmer’s market. Tables stacked with teetering piles of gypsy, poblano, Hungarian and myriad chile peppers vie for attention, showing off their glorious colors and funky, gnarly shapes. I pass a table of eggplant where shiny black beauties, the sturdy workhorse of the eggplant family, sit proudly with their brethren: skinny, lilac Chinese no thicker than a fat finger, purple and white zebra-striped Sicilian, baby ball-shaped Thai.  It’s impossible not to pick up too many, simply because they look so pretty. At home, I fill my refrigerator with as much as I can fit and save the prettiest to display in baskets and bowls on our tables.  The challenge is to remember to eat them.

Provençal Salmon Couscous

Any vegetable that you like to roast will work with this recipe, but it’s especially delicious with late summer veggies. Feel free to mix and match to your taste. I roast the vegetables separately from the salmon (except the leek) so that they won’t absorb too much fish flavor while cooking.

Serves 4.

4 thin, small Chinese eggplant, sliced diagonally, 1/2-inch thick (or one medium dark beauty eggplant, cut in 3/4-inch chunks
1 poblano pepper, stemmed and seeded, halved, thinly sliced
1 sweet red bell pepper (or other peppers you might like), stemmed and seeded, halved, thinly sliced
1 cup small cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1 large leek, white and pale green parts sliced 1/2-inch thick
4 salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each
2 tablespoons, plus 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha

1 1/2 cups couscous
1 1/4 cups hot water
4 scallions, white parts removed (save for another use), green parts thinly sliced

Prepare:
Heat oven to 375 F (190 C). Toss eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and garlic in a bowl with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Transfer to a baking dish. Bake in oven until vegetables are tender and slightly colored, 45 minutes.

Place leeks in a rectangular baking dish. Nestle the salmon filets between the leeks. Whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, Sriracha, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Drizzle over fish and leeks. Using your hands, gently turn the fish and leeks to coat. Place in same oven with the vegetables. Bake until salmon is just cooked through and beginning to color on top, about 30 minutes.

While the salmon is baking, prepare the couscous. Place couscous in a large bowl. Pour hot water over. Add 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir once or twice. Cover and set aside until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Fluff with fork. Stir in scallions.

To serve, spoon the couscous onto a large platter or individual serving plates. Sprinkle the roasted vegetables over the couscous. Place the salmon filets in the center and scatter the leeks around the salmon. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges.

If you like this, you might enjoy these recipes:
Ratatouille Gratin from TasteFood
Sambal Eggplant from Rasa Malaysia
Oven Roasted Fish with Provençal Vegetables and Basil from TasteFood
Eggplant and Red Pepper Terrine from Simply Recipes
Pasta Provençal with Basil, Tomatoes and Olives from TasteFood

Cooking for your Health: Greek Couscous Salad

For the latest installment of Cooking for your Health, which nicely coincides with the Meatless Monday initiative, I present you with this recipe for Greek Couscous Salad. It’s still winter in this part of the world, although the weather is behaving more like spring. Hefty winter salads are a healthy, satisfying and an economical way to get our daily dose of vitamins and nutrients during the cold season, while providing light yet substantial sustenance. This recipe looks to the Greek salad for inspiration. Chopped cucumber, onion, sweet peppers and fresh herbs, rich in Vitamins A and C, are tumbled with whole wheat couscous and protein-rich chickpeas, then topped with a sprinkling of feta cheese. Boosted with lemon, garlic and cayenne, this salad is at once healthy and ridiculously good. I like to serve it simply as-is or scooped into pita bread with a dollop of tsatsiki and harissa. Healthy and meatless don’t get better than this.

Greek Couscous Salad

This salad is very forgiving in its ingredients. The couscous may be substituted with another favorite grain such as farro or quinoa. Feel free to add more or less of the vegetables to the couscous to your taste. The important thing is to have a variety of texture and lots of crunch. Serves 4 to 6.

1 1/4 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 scallions, green and white parts thinly sliced
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced, cut in 1/4 inch dice
1/2 small English cucumber, seeded, cut in 1/4 inch dice, about 1 cup
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/4 cup
1 small red jalapeno or Fresno pepper, seeded, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 – 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnish
1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon Tabasco, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Black olives (kalamata, oil-cured or niçoise) for garnish

Bring water, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Stir in couscous and lemon juice. Cover and let sit until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork and transfer the couscous to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Gently mix to thoroughly combine. Taste for salt and seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished with olives.

Lamb Stew with Raisins and Honey

~ Moroccan Lamb Stew with Raisins and Honey ~

It’s the time of year when I have an urge to travel. Call it cabin fever, restlessness, or simply the craving to be somewhere different, where it’s warm, spicy and balmy. The sights, smells and sounds of new cultures are revitalizing. Time slows down, and the smallest details are observed and savored  amidst a kaleidescope of impressions. It just so happens that this is also the time of year when my urge to travel collides with real life. It’s the middle of the school year, I have work deadlines, and the contents of my piggy bank were spent at Christmas. So I improvise, and my travels occur in the kitchen, where I replace my passport with the jars in my spice drawer and concoct recipes inspired by the exotic flavors, heat and aromas of far flung destinations.

This lamb stew takes inspiration from a traditional Moroccan meat and vegetable tagine and Mrouzia, a rich celebratory stew prepared in the days following  Eid Al Kebir  – or the Festival of Sacrifice. It’s meant to be sweet, enhanced with dried fruit and honey, but I have scaled the sweetness back to my taste while adding tomato paste and carrots for more freshness.  The spice list is lengthy, but attainable. It’s a compilation of spices similar to those found in Ras El Hanout, a spice blend that is a staple in North African cuisine.

Lamb Tagine with Raisins and Honey
Serves 4

1 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
Salt
2 pounds lamb leg or shoulder, excess fat trimmed, cut in 1 inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger with juice
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 carrots, cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon honey, or to taste

Combine all of the dried spices and 1 teaspoon salt together in a small bowl. Toss the lamb with 2 tablespoons olive oil in another bowl. Add the spices to the lamb; mix to thoroughly coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a dutch oven or large pot with a lid. Add lamb in one layer in batches, without overcrowding. Brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Add onion, garlic and ginger to the same pot. Saute until fragrant and onion begins to soften, 2 minutes. Return lamb with any collected juices to the pot. Add chicken stock, tomato paste and 1 teaspoon salt. Add more stock, if necessary, to cover the lamb.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until lamb is very tender, about 2 hours.
When lamb is tender, add carrots and raisins. Simmer, uncovered, until sauce reduces and thickens to a thick stew consistency and the carrots are tender, about 30  minutes.  Stir in honey. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm, spooned over couscous.

Moroccan Lamb Stew and a recipe for Ras el Hanout

Still fixated on warming stews, I recently prepared this lamb stew which not only has heat but the heady aroma of exotic spice. Its secret ingredient is ras el hanout. Ras el hanout is a north African spice blend which may include upwards of 50 spices, including cinnamon, cardamom, clove, turmeric and cayenne. The name, translated, means head of the shop, meaning the best on offer. Like many spice blends, there is no one way to make it, and variations exist from home to home, merchant to merchant.

At first, I made a version of this stew without the addition of ras el hanout, and it was very good. When I added ras el hanout to the recipe, the stew was excellent. You can find ras el hanout in the spice section of your supermarket or specialty stores. If you cannot locate it, then I encourage you to try to make your own version – it’s easy to do.

Moroccan Lamb Stew with Chickpeas and Figs

The lamb is coated and marinated in a spice paste. As the meat browns in the pot, the spices will also brown and cook, adding a rich flavor and color to the stew.

Serves 6-8.

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground paprika
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 – 3 pounds lamb shoulder or leg, cut in 2 inch chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 – 14 ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
2 cups chicken stock
12 dried Calimyrna or Turkish figs, halved
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons ras el hanout (recipe below)
1 – 14 ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Harissa or red chili paste
Fresh cilantro sprigs

Combine 1/4 cup olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl. Mix to form a paste. Place lamb in a large bowl. Rub paste all over lamb. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate covered up to 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or oven proof pot with lid over medium-high heat. Add lamb in batches and brown on all sides, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Transfer lamb to a plate or bowl.
Add onion and carrot to the same pot. Saute, stirring up the brown bits, for 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue to saute 1 minute. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, figs, cinnamon stick, ras el hanout, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.  Return lamb and any collected juices to the pot, submerging it in the stock. (Add additional chicken stock to cover, if necessary.) Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot. Transfer to oven and bake until lamb is falling apart tender, about 2 hours.
Transfer pot to stove. Remove lamb and vegetables with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Bring stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil uncovered until sauce is reduced by about half and thickened, skimming fat.  Stir in chickpeas. Taste to check for seasoning. If necessary add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the stock. Return lamb and vegetables to pot. (May be prepared up to 24 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate. To serve, skim any collected fat from surface. Rewarm over medium-low heat or in a 325 F. oven.)
Serve with prepared couscous. Pass bowls of harissa and fresh cilantro around the table as condiments.

Ras El Hanout
adapted from The Food of Morocco by Tess Mallos

Be sure to use very fresh spices, or grind the whole dried spices.

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

Combine all the spices together. Store in a glass jar in a cool, dark place.
(Recipe may be halved.)

Butternut Squash, Tomato and Chickpea Ragout with Kale and Couscous

Butternut Squash Couscous

The heat of chile, spices of North Africa and earthiness of kale beautifully complement sweet butternut squash in this hearty ragout. Bright, rich and healthy, this recipe is easily prepared in 30 minutes making it a delicious option for a weeknight. If you prefer an even richer stew, Italian sausage or chorizo may be added.  Most likely, however, you will find that the meatless version is substantial and satisfying enough to win over any carnivore. Be sure to serve the ragout with couscous to soak up the liquid.

Butternut Squash, Tomato and Chickpea Ragout with Kale and Couscous
Serves 4 to 6.

Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 red jalapeno or serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, finely chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut in 3/4 inch cubes – about 4 cups
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
1 (14-ounce) can crushed plum tomatoes with juice
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Salt
3 cups kale leaves, tough stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces
2 cups couscous

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in a deep sauté pan or stock pot. Add onion and sauté until beginning to soften, 2 minutes. Add garlic and chiles and sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add butternut squash and dry spices; sauté 2 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups chicken stock and tomatoes with juices. (The squash should be just covered with liquid. Add extra chicken stock if necessary.) Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until squash is tender but firm, 15-20 minutes. Add chickpeas and 1 teaspoon salt. Continue to simmer, 10 minutes. Stir in kale and simmer until leaves are wilted and bright green, 2 minutes.
While the ragout is simmering bring 2 cups chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous, 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes. Fluff with fork.
To serve, spoon couscous into a bowl or shallow plate, leaving a well in the center. Ladle ragout into the center. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley leaves.

To prepare with sausage: As a first step, slice 8 ounces hot Italian sausage or chorizo into 1/2 inch pieces. Sauté in deep sauté pan until golden brown on all sides. Transfer sausage to a plate lined with a paper towel. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon rendered fat. Add onion and proceed with instructions above, substituting the sausage fat for the olive oil. Return sausage to the ragout with the chickpeas.

Sriracha Marinated Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

Sriracha chicken tf

Why is it that when it’s super hot outside, spicy food is the best antidote? The theory lies in the chile peppers. Their heat winds up our endorphins, radiating heat to our skin and causing us to sweat, which, in turn, cools us down. And, despite the calendar date, this is just what I need. The Bay area is presently in the midst of a record breaking heat wave. Triple digit temperatures are making up for the summer that did not happen this year. It’s hot hot hot, and I am craving spicy food.

This recipe attempts to remedy that. Consider it an Ode to an Autumn Heat Wave. Sriracha Marinated Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables takes a quintessential fall dish and ramps up the heat with a douse of sriracha. It’s homey, rustic and firing on all pistons. So, if you will excuse me, I need to go and sweat a little.

Sriracha Marinated Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

Spicy, fragrant and hearty with seasonal root vegetables, this is best served with couscous to soak up the juices.

For the marinade:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sriracha
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
Juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the roast:
1 3-4 pound free range organic chicken
6 baby sweet peppers, or 2 bell peppers, cut in 2 inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, smashed
2 large yellow onions, quartered
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut in 2 inch chunks
1 medium cauliflower, broken in 2 inch florets
1 large fennel bulb with fronds, ends trimmed, cut in 1 inch chunks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Whisk all of the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400 F. (200 C.) Rinse the chicken and pat dry, including inside of the cavity, with paper towels; place in a large bowl. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Coat all over the chicken, including inside the cavity and between the skin and breast meat. Transfer chicken to roasting pan, breast-side up. Add vegetables to the same bowl along with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Scatter the vegetables around the chicken in the roasting pan. Bake in oven 30 minutes. Remove pan and with tongs, carefully turn chicken over in pan, breast-side down. Continue roasting 20 minutes. Remove pan and turn chicken over once again, breast-side up. Continue roasting until thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer chicken to cutting board. Tent loosely with foil and let rest 10 minutes before carving. Stir vegetables in the pan with the juices and keep warm. Serve chicken with vegetables and couscous with reserved juices.