Israeli Couscous Salad

In the heat of the summer when tomatoes are lush and warm and cucumbers are cheap and numerous, I make a lot of Greek salads.  Sometimes there are lovely smoky hot peppers  and other times a few clean, green bell peppers suffice.  Feta makes an appearance if I have it.  Leftover salmon or chicken might get thrown in.

The other day I saw something somewhere about Israeli salad and, while it’s similar to traditional “Greek” salad, it has lots of lemon and often includes mint and/or other fresh herbs.  When I read the words, “Israeli salad,” I just had to have some.  I like mine with cheese, but many people also add nuts or seeds. Some never add cheese so that the salad is pareve–doesn’t contain dairy or meat– or so that it’s vegan.   Whichever way you choose, I think you’ll be happy and full.

My favorite little bit about Israeli salad (which is served at many meals in Israel including breakfast) comes from legendary blogger David Lebovitz, who had Israeli food writer Maya Marom write a guest post about the salad after his return to Paris from a trip to Israel.  Maya tells us there just aren’t any rules about making the salad as far as ingredients go:

The very bare essentials – which are, just like everything else in Israel, up for discussion – are cucumbers, tomatoes, and onion. The rest is up to your liking, and the amount of chopping patience you have. Just a handful of raw vegetables, finely chopped (“dak dak”) and well-dressed (just olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice), will make a tasty bowlful of goodness. Great as a side, or on its own as a light meal.
The only rule of chopped salad is this: There are no rules. Use whatever vegetables you can find. It doesn’t really matter which kinds you put in, as long as they’re fresh, well chopped, and at room temperature. (Vegetables straight from the fridge tend to taste a little dull).
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You can also look at–the photos are great– (or read if you read Hebrew) Maya’s blog here.

My own version of the salad, which often is made larger or fuller with the addition of fresh greens like spinach or arugula, includes Israeli couscous (pearl couscous), which is a very quick cooking small, round pasta that looks a bit like large tapioca.  If I have fresh fish like tuna (see cook’s notes), I grill it, slice it, and add  it on top with another big spritz of lemon.  For a dinner party, a large platter of the salad with a few sliced grilled fish fillets (or poached shrimp if, like me, you don’t keep kosher) is an easy main that can mostly be made ahead.  Serving it at room temperature means you can sit and have a glass of wine with your friends instead of standing at the stove or grill.   The leftover salad makes for great, healthy lunches or is perfect stuffed in pita.  Do taste and re-season if you serve it the next day as you would any refrigerated dish.  This particular bowlful contained fresh oregano as well as parsley only because it was that or sage, which didn’t scan for me.

Since this makes a significant amount of food, remember you can halve it.  My advice, however, is to invite a few friends and share this meal.

Israeli Couscous Salad
6-8 servings

  • 1 cup uncooked Israeli (pearl) couscous
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 2 English cucumbers, diced
  • 3 small tomatoes, seeded and diced (cut in half and squeeze seeds out; chop rest)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, reserve a bit for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 4 green onions, minced (green and white parts)
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped feta cheese, reserve a bit for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • Juice of one lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Crushed red pepper
Into a medium pan, pour the boiling water over the Israeli (or pearl) couscous and bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover, and simmer about eight minutes or until tender.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Leave uncovered and set aside to cool a bit.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together the cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh herbs, peppers, onions, garlic, feta, and lemon peel.  Add the couscous and mix.   Drizzle lemon juice over everything, season well with a generous pinch crushed red pepper, kosher salt and pepper, and stir well.  (Begin with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and add more if needed.)  Drizzle with about 3 tablespoons olive oil and mix thoroughly.  Taste, re-season, and serve at room temperature.  Good cold for the next day or two for a leftover lunch.
Cook’s Notes:  Leave out feta for vegan version.  To quickly grill tuna, heat stove-top grill or heavy skillet over high heat. Firmly place canola oiled, salted and peppered tuna fillets in hot pan and cook for 2-3 minutes on one side.  Turn and cook another 2-3 minutes on the other side.  They should still be quite pink in the center.  Let them rest a few minutes and then slice thinly at an angle.  4 ounces of fish, along with a big serving of the salad should be plenty for each person.WINE:  I liked an Oregon chardonnay with this; it stood up to the tuna. Try Chehelam or Bethel Heights.  If you make your salad quite spicy, see about an off-dry Riesling (the higher the alcohol %, the drier the Riesling–) from Washington, New York, or Germany.Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,
Alyce
(originally published on my Dinner Place blog:  19 October, 2013)
Copyright More Time at the Table 2013. All rights reserved.

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Grilled Eggplant-Potato Salad with Homemade Spicy Basil Mayonnaise a la Daniel Boulud

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If it’s past our anniversary, which for 40 years has appeared each Bastille Day, it’s past the middle of July. That’s pretty late in the season to have not yet had one bite of potato salad.  Late yesterday afternoon, opening and closing the fridge door like a teenager hoping to find something new since the last time I looked, I couldn’t think of something to have with leftover burgers.  (I like leftover burgers nearly better than fresh.) The weather was not helpful:  60 degrees and 60 mph winds with hard rain and hail did away with idea of grilling anything.  I knew I needed to use a quickly aging eggplant and of course there were eggs.  In the vegetable basket were onions and naturally potatoes.  A big bunch of basil drooped unhappily on the counter.  I drooped, too.  Our youngest had been home for a few days for a family wedding and for our anniversary.  She had left that morning.

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Cook the Book — Last Week — Tomato-Carrot Soup with Feta

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(Above:  Soup is easily vegan without the feta garnish.)

This is the last week I’ll  feature a recipe from my new book, Soups & Sides for Every Season (click HERE to order).   Make the recipe, photograph it, email the pic to me:  soupsandsides@gmail.com.   If yours is the first email with a recipe photo I receive, I’ll mail you a book!  Don’t forget to include your snail mail address in the email as well as any adjustments you made to the recipe.  Now get “cooking!”  I can’t wait to hear from you.

My first for-real book signing is Saturday, July 19 (11am – 1 pm) at Aspen Kitchens and Design Studio here in Colorado Springs:  5134 North Nevada Ave. Colorado Springs, 80918 –University Village Complex. I’ll have a few books with me, but you still have time to buy one and bring it!  There may even be some soup or something else to taste.  Come see!  Next up is Shouse Appliances at Academy and Austin Bluffs; date tba.  There’ll be some cooking going on at Shouse, of course.

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Cook the Book — Two More Weeks — Grilled Peaches or Figs with Cheese, Honey, Thyme, and Black Pepper

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For the next two weeks, I’ll at some time during each week feature one recipe from my new book, Soups & Sides for Every Season (click HERE to order).   Make the recipe, photograph it, email the pic to me:  soupsandsides@gmail.com.   If yours is the first email with a recipe photo I receive, I’ll mail you a book!  Don’t forget to include your snail mail address in the email as well as any adjustments you made to the recipe.  Now get “cooking!”  I can’t wait to hear from you.

My first for-real book signing is Saturday, July 19 (11am – 1 pm) at Aspen Kitchens and Design Studio here in Colorado Springs:  5134 North Nevada Ave. Colorado Springs, 80918 –University Village Complex. I’ll have a few books with me, but you still have time to buy one and bring it!  There may even be some soup or something else to taste.  Come see!

If you haven’t had a chance to look at the book yet, it’s a soft covered paperback, 174 pages, and was a more than two-year effort that included a wonderful team:  Patricia Miller, editor; Amanda Weber, designer; Daniel Craig, artist; and Drew Robinson, CS, sommelier.  I had a dedicated team of testers and they’re all listed in the acknowledgment section. Continue reading

Ina Fridays — Desserts — Classic Cheesecake for the Fourth of July


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The first Friday of the month, I group-blog Ina Garten recipes with a great group of writer cooks. Scroll down for more info and to click on the links for more desserts.  Come back August 1 for Ina Fridays appetizers!

I’m a glutton for making cheesecake.  One cheesecake, actually.  If your husband was as crazy about one particular cheesecake as is mine, you’d make it, too.  If you were crazy about your husband, that is.  And I am.  That’s not to say he doesn’t drive me out of my mind occasionally; he does.  Did this last Monday, in fact. (Insert huge scream and multiple #$*%7## words.)  But if God is good — and God is good, for us, anyway — I always seem to get past the odd supremely irritated moment (hour, week) and fall back in love with him.  Or at least stay in the house.

621f4-img_02081 Here’s the sweet couple loving it up on vacation last year.  We never fight on vacation, though there’s the occasional morning where I say, “I’m going to pool.  I’ll see you at lunch.”  I don’t swim.  (Not anymore, anyway.) Continue reading

Cook the Book — Three More Weeks! + Alyce’s Blueberry Muffins


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For the next three weeks, I’ll at some time during each week feature one recipe from my new book, Soups & Sides for Every Season (click HERE to order).   Make the recipe, photograph it, email the pic to me:  soupsandsides@gmail.com.   If yours is the first email with a recipe photo I receive, I’ll mail you a book!  Don’t forget to include your snail mail address in the email as well as any adjustments you made to the recipe.  Now get “cooking!”  I can’t wait to hear from you.

If you haven’t had a chance to look at the book yet, it’s a soft covered paperback, 174 pages, and was a more than two-year effort that included a wonderful team:  Patricia Miller, editor; Amanda Weber, designer; Daniel Craig, artist; and Drew Robinson, CS, sommelier.  I had a dedicated team of testers and they’re all listed in the acknowledgment section.

The book itself is divided into seven chapters:  one soup chapter for each season, and then one each for Breads and Spreads, Salads and Fast Sides, and, saving the last for best, Desserts.  Today’s recipe comes from the Breads and Spreads chapter and is an original blueberry muffin recipe that was developed literally at the last minute before publication when the recipe planned just didn’t work out.  It was a mad scramble to work out another muffin recipe and to test it at altitude, at sea level, and in between.  Great thanks to Mary Ellen Harm (Boston), who tested and reported back via Facebook, Continue reading

Cook the Book! Next Four Weeks–A Free Book Each Week

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   First Up:  Spicy Cucumber with Feta and there’s no cooking involved!  Happy summer soups!  Thanks for all of your lovely support during this last week.  You’re helping make my dream come true.  You’re wonderful!

For the next four weeks, I’ll at some time during each week feature one recipe from my new book, Soups & Sides for Every Season (click HERE to order).   Make the recipe, photograph it, email the pic to me:  soupsandsides@gmail.com.   If yours is the first email with a recipe photo I receive, I’ll mail you a book!  Don’t forget to include your snail mail address in the email as well as any adjustments you made to the recipe.    As my own stash of books is still on the way from the printer, be patient if you don’t get your book immediately; it could take just a little while.  Now get “cooking!”  I can’t wait to hear from you.

Soup Book-Cover finalSPICY CUCUMBER WITH FETA

When cucumbers are plentiful, cheap, and the weather is sultry, it’s time to make cucumber-yogurt soup.  Lebanese to start with (Kh’yaaf B’lubban) and very like the Indian Kheera Raita, Americans have made this creamy, cooling dish their own.  Perfect to eat as a cold first course or for a light meal, it’s ready in the time it takes to whir a few things through the food processor. This is also a great soup to personalize.  A bit more hot sauce? Add avocado?  Top with smoked salmon? A bit of cumin? Chopped scallions or tomatoes as a garnish?  However you make this, you’ll want it again and again.  My own version holds some heat (skip Sriracha—a Thai hot sauce– if you don’t like heat) and includes some salty feta and chopped red bell pepper on top.  I first encountered some of the flavors from this soup in Melissa Clark’s fabulous Greek Goddess Dip (NYT, “A Good Appetite,” 2/10/10), which utilizes some of the same ingredients in a perfect herbaceous dip for fresh vegetables.  When I began to test cucumber soups for this book, I again and again returned to the combination of herbs Melissa uses in her dip.

If you don’t have a food processor, simply chop up the vegetables as finely as possible, whisk together the yogurt and buttermilk, and mix up all of the ingredients using a spoon or large spatula.

Serves 8

  • 4 English cucumbers unpeeled, sliced in half, seeded (pull a big spoon down the center of each half), and cut into 1” pieces*
  • 4 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons each chopped fresh basil and mint
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or a few drops of other hot sauce)
  • Juice of 2 lemons (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons honey

Garnish:  1 cup each: feta cheese, crumbled, and finely chopped red bell pepper

Cook’s Note:  If using regular American cucumbers purchased from the grocery store, please peel them before blending to make the soup; they’re often waxed.

Combine all ingredients (except feta and red bell pepper) in the food processor and blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasonings. Chill for a few hours in refrigerator if you have the time.   Divide soup between the bowls and top each with a bit of feta cheese and red pepper.

Accompaniments:  This soup is lovely all on its own, but if you have a hungry group you could add some smoked salmon and crackers to the table or even a basket of pita or naan.  If it’s not too hot, bake up a batch of your favorite biscuits early in the morning.

Wine: Sauvignon Blanc is a great go-to wine with feta cheese, and Pinot Grigio would be good as well.  (Drew Robinson, CS)  Note:  Drew expands greatly on this theme in the book itself; I’ve edited it in the interest of space for the blog.

Dessert:  I love the idea of some fresh fruit and a bit of cheese—nothing more.

Sing a new song,

Alyce

Soups + Sides for Every Season is Published and Available : YES, YES, YES!

Soup Book-Cover finalLong time readers know I’ve been working on a soup cookbook for a couple of years.  The day has come; it’s published!  Get yours now! Available on amazon.com; click HERE! to order. Ebook on the way and I’m not sure how long that will be.  If you’ve eaten something, cooked something, read the book, or ordered the book, reviews — even a line or two — on my amazon page would mean a great deal.

Many thanks to all involved — testers, tasters, encouragers, lovers, and especially the group of great folks who worked with me to make this happen.  This doesn’t happen without huge support and lots and lots of love and help.

If you’d like to review the book, leave a comment or email me; I’ll mail you a book or email a pdf.  If you’d just like to blog a recipe (Ina Fridays writers?!) I’m happy to share and will also do that on this blog a few times over the coming weeks.

My team, amazing always, was:

  • Patricia Miller, Editor  (photo courtesy Trish Triff Noack)

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  • Amanda Weber, Designer (photo courtesy Mena Xiong)

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Daniel Craig, Artist (below with his beautiful wife, Kim Craig, at Opus and Olives)–Cover and chapter icons

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  • Drew Robinson, CS — Wine Pairings  (photo by Alyce Morgan)

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My biggest thanks goes to my hub of nearly 40 years, David Morgan, who worked and paid my bills while I struggled along cooking, writing, testing, and making a big soup mess in the kitchen on and on..and on.  He bought the groceries, ate enough soup to float a boat, did the dishes, and took out the garbage. He even made soup.  He got me away on vacation, too–more than once.   Love you always! Continue reading

One-Pan Seared Salmon with Onions and Tomatoes on Lemony Greens–10-Minute Dinner

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I know wild salmon is good for you.  And I truly eat it because it is. I also eat it because it’s fast, delicious, versatile, filling, and simple to cook. Is it cheap?  Certainly not.  It’s not even inexpensive, but it’s a lot of food for the time and money.  Given the number of times a week Americans spend their cash in restaurants or Starbucks, salmon’s a good value.  I cook salmon in many ways and rarely the same way twice though I’m partial to wrapping a side of salmon in foil and roasting it in the oven.  It’ll feed several folks or two of you for a few days.  Think salmon salad, scrambled eggs with salmon chunks, fish sandwiches, salmon nicoise….

This tiny, little bitty recipe (if you can call if that) focuses on the fast virtue of a salmon meal.  For the many, many people who consistently say to me, “I just don’t have time to cook. It has to be really fast and easy,” this is your dinner.  I do sometimes think that those who insist they have no time to cook really don’t spend the time to plan and shop or to make sure their pantries, fridges, and freezers are stocked with simple possibilities.  So many luscious, healthy meals are so very fast and are worth the time you spend on your health and well-being.   Try this sweet recipe that works as easily for one person as it does for two or four or more.  By chance, not by design, it’s also gluten-free and South Beach Diet friendly.  If you’d rather grill the salmon, have it your way; it’ll take longer to heat the grill if time is of the essence.  Whatever you do, cook tonight, friends:

ONE-PAN SALMON WITH ONIONS AND TOMATOES ON LEMONY GREENS

serves 2

  • 4 cups fresh greens of your choice (If you have a few basil leaves or chopped fresh parsley, add that, too.)
  • 1 fresh lemon, cut in half
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper (if desired)
  • 2  4 – 6 ounce salmon fillets
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes

Divide greens between two large, shallow serving bowls or plates.  Squeeze half of the lemon over the greens and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Set aside while you cook the salmon.

Heat a  9 or 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-high flame.  Add one tablespoon of the oil and let sit a minute to heat.  Place salmon, skin side up, in pan with the onion and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper if desired.  Cover and cook 4 minutes or so.  Turn over the salmon fillets, add tomatoes, cover, and cook another 3-4 minutes or until salmon is crispy, firm, but still pink and tender at center. Aim for juicy.

Divide the salmon, onions, and tomatoes between the two plates and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice over the salmon.  Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of oil.  Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.

Cook’s Notes: If you have frozen individual salmon fillets, you can cook them just as I have in the recipe–it’ll just take a bit longer and you may need to lower the heat after you turn the fillets.   Don’t hesitate.  Be of great courage.

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WINE:  Pinot Noir.  Oregon if you can.

DESSERT:  It’s summer, have a few strawberries and a great cup of coffee on the front porch.

Here’s one pic I snapped of Tucker and Miss Gab  as I cooked.  (Miss Gab is feeling very well. Thanks to all who’ve inquired.)

IMG_5961Enjoy!

Looking for something great to do this summer?  Feed the kids!  No Kid Hungry–click here.

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Sing a new song,

Alyce

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