Pearl Couscous Salad

Pearl Couscous Salad

If you haven’t met pearl couscous yet, then it’s high time you did. Despite its name, pearl couscous differs from the finely-grained North African semolina couscous, typically served with tagines. Pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous, is made of baked wheat instead of semolina, and its granules are much larger in size, similar to fregola sarda. It retains it’s shape while cooking, and, before simmering in liquid to soften, it should be sauteed in olive oil which imparts a lovely golden hue and toasted flavor. It’s delicious simply tossed with olive oil and lemon, or as a component of a chopped salad. Serve it as an accompaniment to grilled meats and fish, or dress it up with chopped vegetables and herbs from the garden and sprinkle with feta for a vegetarian option.  Continue reading Pearl Couscous Salad

Red Quinoa and Kale Slaw

Red Quinoa and Kale Slaw

I served this Quinoa and Kale Slaw the other night as an accompaniment to grilled pork tenderloin. Quinoa is a hearty, gluten-free grain packed with nutrients. It’s tiny seeds are toothsome and nutty, yet, in my opinion, somewhat wanting for flavor and brightness when served alone. I prefer to tumble the little sprouted grains with a smattering of leaves, chopped vegetables and spices for a healthy and immensely satisfying side dish. This recipe pairs red quinoa with handfuls of chopped Tuscan kale. While it may sound like a lot of kale, the sturdy greens easily make themselves at home in the salad and provide a perfect foil to the quinoa seeds. The result is akin to a cole slaw, which, in this case, would be kale slaw.

Red Quinoa and Kale Slaw
Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 cups red quinoa
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
1 large garlic clove
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon Tabasco or hot sauce
1 bunch Tuscan (Lacinato) kale, tough ribs removed, chopped

Bring quinoa, stock and 1 teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Cover and reduce to heat to low. Simmer until liquid is absorbed and quinoa grains sprout, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and olive oil and toss to coat. Cool slightly. Add remaining ingredients, except for the kale, and toss to combine. Stir in the kale. Taste for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

If you like this, you might enjoy these TasteFood recipes:
Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets, Wheat Berries and Goat Cheese
Roasted Provençal Vegetable Salad
Fregola Sarda with Asparagus and Lemon

Warm Steak and Farro Salad with Roasted Beets, Onions and Chickpeas

Warm Steak and Farro Salad with Roasted Beets, Onions and Chickpeas

~ Beef Ribeye, Farro, Golden Beets, Spring Onion, Chickpeas, Tarragon ~

It’s safe to say that everything I bought today at the market ended up in this dish. Sweet onions, golden beets and fresh chickpeas vied for my attention this morning at the farmers’ market, so I did what any sensible person would do. I bought all of them. Moving on to the local ranch’s stall displaying their glistening meat, I  continued my spree and snagged 2 seriously soft and richly marbled rib eye steaks, each weighing in at nearly 1 pound each. I wasn’t sure exactly how I would put our dinner together, but I knew it would be magnificent with these fresh and earthy ingredients.

Warm Steak and Farro Salad with Roasted Beets, Onions and Chickpeas
Serves 4

3 medium golden beets, peeled, cut in 1/2 inch batons or wedges
1 large sweet yellow onion, halved lengthwise, each half thickly sliced in wedges
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups farro
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2 or 3 rib eye steaks, about 1 inch thick
1/2 cup shelled fresh chick peas
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves
Sriracha (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 F/190 C. Toss the beets and onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Bake in oven until beets are tender and onions are beginning to brown, about 45 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the farro: Combine the stock, farro and 1 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until the farro is tender but still chewy, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil,  garlic, paprika, cumin and cayenne. Partially cover to keep warm.
Prepare the steaks: Season the steaks all over with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in a heavy skillet or cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add steaks, without overcrowding, and cook until brown on both sides, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes for medium rare. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes. Cut steaks crosswise in 1/2 inch thick slices.
While the steaks are resting, add the fresh chickpeas to the skillet and briefly saute over medium heat until their color brightens, 1 to 2 minutes.
To serve, spoon the farro into the center of a serving platter or divide among serving plates. Arrange steak in the center of the farro and drizzle with any accumulated juices. Place the vegetables around the steak and drizzle with any accumulated baking juices. Scatter the chickpeas over. Garnish with fresh tarragon. If desired drizzle with more olive oil. Serve warm with Sriracha sauce on the side.

Cooking for your Health: Greek Couscous Salad

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.

Cooking for Your Health: Kale and Quinoa Salad

Cooking for Your Health: Kale and Quinoa Salad

Kale, Quinoa, Carrots, Red Cabbage, Chickpeas, Raisins, Lemon 

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t eat your salad. After all, we adapt our wardrobe for the cold season, and we can do the same with our vegetables. Fresh winter salads, fortified with grains and legumes, heartily provide us with a plateful of immunity-boosting accessories to keep the the doctor away. This kale and quinoa salad is packed with healthy ingredients rich in nutrients, anti-oxidants and protein. Kale is a superfood, rich in vitamins A, C and K, high in fiber and the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids as well as cancer fighting phytonutrients. That’s a lot of nutritional heft for a member of the cabbage family. Teamed up with quinoa, an ancient grain and an amino acid-rich protein, these 2 ingredients form a powerhouse of nutrition, promoting health, clear breathing and anti-inflammation. More importantly, they taste great – especially when seasoned and tumbled with raisins, chick peas and carrots in a cumin-spiced lemon vinaigrette .

Winter Kale and Quinoa Salad with Lemon Cumin Vinaigrette 

The beauty of this salad is that its ingredients may be mixed and matched according to availability and taste. Fresh, raw spinach may be combined with or substituted for the blanched kale. If you don’t have quinoa in the pantry, then try bulgur or wheat berries. Almonds or walnuts are a delicious, nutrient-rich substitution for the chickpeas.

Serves 4-6.

For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad:
1 large bunch curly kale – (chou frisée)
2 large carrots, peeled, grated
1/4 small head of red cabbage, shredded
1 cup chick peas
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup golden raisins

Prepare the vinaigrette:
Whisk together all of the ingredients except the olive oil in a small bowl. Add oil in a steady stream, constantly whisking to emulsify. Set aside.

Prepare the salad:
Remove the tough veins from the kale leaves. Tear leaves into large pieces. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the kale leaves. Blanch until bright green but not wilted, 10-15 seconds. Drain immediately and refresh under cold water or in a bowl of ice water. Spread in one layer on a kitchen towel and blot dry. Toss kale, carrots and red cabbage together in a large bowl. Add the chickpeas, raisins and half of the quinoa. Toss with half of the vinaigrette. Transfer to a serving platter or divide among serving plates. Sprinkle with additional quinoa. Drizzle with remaining dressing to taste.

This post is the first in a series of monthly posts devoted to Cooking for Your Health. In coordination with my long-time friend, Knirke, who is a Swiss-based pilates instructor, this column will provide a monthly recipe designed to boost health in synchronization with the season and a particular health theme in Knirke’s monthly newsletter. This month, the theme is breathing. Clear and deep breathing is essential to our vitality and health, providing oxygen to our blood and brain. The foods we eat can promote or interfere with our breathing. Interfering food allergens may be wheat, dairy and red meat which produce mucus. To counter this, it’s important to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables throughout the winter. Colorful produce is a rich source of anti-oxidants and vitamins, reducing inflammation, fighting infections and boosting our immune system. And, not only are they healthy for you, they are delicious, too. So, don’t just relegate your winter vegetables to a recuperative diet – enjoy them daily!

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets, Wheat Berries and Goat Cheese

Mixed Greens with Roasted Beets, Wheat Berries and Goat Cheese


~ Yellow Beets, Wheat Berries, Goat Cheese, Chervil, Winter Greens ~

I used to hate beets. Now I can’t get enough of them. Perhaps I am scrambling to make up for all of those lost beet-eating years when I shuddered at the thought of tasting the earthy beet. Now that I am a covert, I always have a bunch of beets in my refrigerator, ready to accompany a roasting chicken or stir into a couscous or rice pilaf. Beets’ murky sweetness also adds a fresh foil to grains and salads, working especially well when matched with other strong flavors like bitter greens or tangy citrus. In this recipe they team up with healthy wheat berries and a mix of peppery, sharp greens. A shower of chervil adds a complementary anise note to this wintry salad.

Mixed Greens and Beet Salad with Wheat Berries and Goat Cheese

Don’t discard the pan juices from the roasted beets in olive oil. Once cool it makes a lovely dressing for the beets. Serves 4.

4 medium golden (or red) beets, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt
6 cups mixed greens, such as arugula, chicory, mizuna, red oak lettuce
1/3 cup cooked wheat berries (or farro)
1/2 cup fresh chervil sprigs
3 ounces crumbled fresh goat cheese
1/2 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

Roast the beets:
Preheat oven to 400 F. Trim ends of beets and scrub clean; throughly dry. Place beets in an oven-proof rimmed pan or pot with a lid. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and toss to coat. Cover pot with lid or aluminum foil. Bake until beets are tender but not too soft, 50 minutes – 1 hour. Remove from oven. Transfer beets to a cutting board and cool. Reserve cooking liquid in pot. When beets are cool enough to handle, peel away skins. Slice 1/4 inch thick and place in a bowl. Whisk 2 tablespoons lemon juice and salt into reserved beet juice. Drizzle the beet juice over the beets and gently toss to coat.

Assemble salad:
Arrange greens on a serving plate. Sprinkle wheat berries over the greens and arrange beets over the salad. Scatter with chervil and sprinkle goat cheese over the salad. Drizzle any remaining beet juice over the greens. Squeeze the juice of 1/2 lemon over the salad, to taste. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries

Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries

~ Salad with substance: Kale, Carrots, Shallot, Pecans, Dried Cranberries ~

Fall and winter salads differ from their light and cooling summer cousin. Cold weather salads should be filling and comforting, hardy with fruit and nuts, cheese and dried meat. While served fresh, these salads should give warmth in substance. The base of this bright fall salad is kale. In it’s raw form kale is tough and bitter, best shredded in a slaw or sautéed in olive oil. For this salad I’ve softened the kale  by quickly blanching it just to soften its edges without wilting. The other ingredients fall willingly into formation, adding sweetness, crunch and a vibrancy of color pretty enough to decorate any holiday table.

Winter Kale and Carrot Salad with Pecans and Cranberries
Sliced persimmons would also be a nice addition to this salad.
Serves 4 as a side.

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large bunch curly green kale, tough vein removed, torn in large pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1/3 cup pecans, halved
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Make the vinaigrette: Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify. Set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add kale and blanch just until the color brightens and the leaves still hold their shape, 20 seconds. Drain immediately and rinse under cold water. Spin dry in a salad spinner or blot dry with a kitchen towel. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients. Toss with half of the dressing and taste for seasoning. Serve with additional dressing to taste.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa Tabbouleh

~ Quinoa Tabbouleh ~

I love a good tabbouleh. For the uninitiated, tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad chockablock full of grains tumbled together with fresh herbs and diced vegetables coated with olive oil and lemon juice. It’s infinitely satisfying – hearty and fresh at once. It’s also agreeably flexible, allowing for a variety of ingredients, including the choice of grain. Traditionally, tabbouleh is made with bulgur or couscous, but quinoa is a tasty and gluten-free alternative. I like to serve tabbouleh as a side to grilled meat and fish, or as a light vegetarian meal accompanied by pita bread and hummus.

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Quinoa is a South American grain, originating in the Andes. It is complete in protein, rich in phosphorous, magnesium and iron, with a nutty flavor. Quinoa is a healthy alternative to rice, couscous and bulgur – and it’s gluten-free. When cooking quinoa, be sure to cook it long enough for the germ or tiny tail to release from the grain. Serves 4.

1 cup quinoa (I used a combination of white and red quinoa)
1 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded, membranes removed, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 red jalapeno or serrano chile pepper, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
1 bunch mint, chopped
1 bunch cilantro (or parsley), chopped

Combine quinoa and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed and the germ, or tail, is released from the quinoa, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Stir in olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper. Cool to room temperature. Add remaining ingredients except for the mint and cilantro. Toss to combine. Taste to adjust seasoning. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour or up to 4 hours to allow flavors to develop. Before serving, stir in the mint and cilantro.

Shrimp and Feta Salad

~ Mixed Greens, Shrimp, Feta, Tomatoes, Cured Olives ~

Shrimp and feta cheese make a perfect couple. The sharp salty cheese is a perfect complement to the briny sweet shrimp. I like to combine these two friends in rice or orzo dishes. I also enjoy baking them in a gratin with tomatoes and olives, drizzled with ouzo – which was my original intention for dinner tonight. However, time got the best of me, and for a super quick fix I tossed the shrimp in this salad instead. What would have been a simple green salad graciously accommodated sautéed shrimp and chunks of feta, transforming itself into a light and fresh main course. As for the ouzo, it was hardly bypassed, but turned into an apertif to launch our dinner. A very acceptable compromise, indeed.

Shrimp and Feta Salad

I also added red corn kernels to the salad, because I had them – and they looked so pretty with the shrimp. Serves 4.

For the vinaigrette:
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk all of the ingredients except the oil together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream to emulsify. Set aside.

For the salad:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
16 medium shrimp, shelled with tails in tact, deveined
8 cups mixed greens, such as red oak, bibb, arugula
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved if large
1/2 red pepper, seeded, membranes removed, thinly sliced
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
16 black olives (brine cured or kalamata)
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Italian parsley leaves

Heat the oil and red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp in one layer, without overcrowding the pan. Cook, turning once, until bright pink on both sides, about 1 minute each side. Transfer shrimp to a plate. Cool.
Combine the greens, tomatoes, red pepper and onion together in a large bowl. Drizzle 1/4 cup vinaigrette over the greens and toss to coat. Divide among plates. Scatter olives and feta over the salad. Arrange shrimp on top. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette to taste. Garnish with parsley. Serve with bread or pita.

Summer Corn and Tomato Salad

Summer Corn and Tomato Salad

~
Fresh corn and tomatoes are symbols of summer, right up there with steamy sultry days and perspiring clinking drinks. So it’s no surprise that corn and tomatoes pair perfectly in this casual, summery salad. Their mutual sweetness is differentiated by the milky crunch of fresh corn kernels and the juicy acidity of sweet cherry tomatoes. A shower of parsley keep them grounded along with the bite of sweet red onion and a squirt of lime. This is summer simplicity at its best.

Summer Corn and Tomato Salad
Serves 4

2 ears corn, husked
1 poblano pepper, stemmed, seeded, diced
1/2 small red onion, chopped
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 bunch Italian parsley, stems removed, leaves chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut the kernels from the corn and place in a bowl. Add the pepper, onion, tomatoes and parsley. Mix to combine. Drizzle with olive oil and lime juice. Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve.