Month: July 2014

Israeli Couscous Salad

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   See notes for GF and vegan versions, as well as an idea for adding grilled tuna.

  • 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.
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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.
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Cook’s Notes: GF? Make rice instead of couscous  VEGAN? Leave out feta for vegan version.  ADD TUNA? 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.
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WINE:  I liked an Oregon chardonnay with this; it stood up to the tuna, if making. 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.
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Have fun cooking and taking care of yourself,
Alyce
Steak and Blue Cheese Chopped Salad on the Deck with the Dogs

Steak and Blue Cheese Chopped Salad on the Deck with the Dogs

IMG_6369Perhaps you have no leftover steak from grilling a night or two before.  But I hope you do.
IMG_6373Perhaps you don’t have dogs, but I hope you do.

IMG_6363If by chance you have both, and even if you’re a cat person, you should make a Steak and Blue Cheese Chopped Salad.  For 2. Or double it for 4. Continue reading “Steak and Blue Cheese Chopped Salad on the Deck with the Dogs”

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

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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Continue reading “Grilled Eggplant-Potato Salad with Homemade Spicy Basil Mayonnaise a la Daniel Boulud”

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

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.

Soup Book-Cover final

Continue reading “Cook the Book — Last Week — Tomato-Carrot Soup with Feta”

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

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

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

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

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

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 — Three More Weeks! + Alyce’s Blueberry Muffins”