Category: Couscous

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).
.

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
Ina Fridays — Main Courses — Israeli Couscous & Tuna Salad

Ina Fridays — Main Courses — Israeli Couscous & Tuna Salad

   I’m going on vacation after this post. The blog is going with me.  See you late June! 

If you weren’t up for a new tuna salad, this full-of-flavor high-five salad from Ina Garten’s newest book BAREFOOT CONTESSA:  FOOLPROOF; RECIPES YOU CAN TRUST, might make you change your mind.  Made from a good many pantry ingredients (canned tuna, Israeli couscous, roasted tomatoes, olive oil) plus a short list of freshly-purchased ones (oil-cured olives, lemon, herbs), this meal comes together in about fifteen easy minutes.  While the couscous cooks, you’re doing a bit of chopping; by the time the couscous is done, you’re mixing up and serving.

Great for a hot night on the patio, you could stir this up in the morning before the heat begins–or even the night before.  Pop it in the frig and you’re all set.  Leftovers are perfect for lunches.

israeli couscous & tuna salad    (CLICK FOR RECIPE)

 Chop your fresh ingredients while the couscous cooks for about twelve minutes. Ina calls for plain Israeli couscous, but I used an Israeli couscous blend that includes orzo and a few other grains or legumes. I bought it bulk at my local grocery, but Trader Joes often carries it; you can order through the link.   Another name for Israeli couscous is pearl couscous.  If you can’t find any at all, or don’t like couscous, use orzo or a sturdy rice.  I make a salad similar to this (lots of parsley instead of basil/no olives) and use canned white beans. Recipe at end.

 Next, mix most of the fresh ingredients plus the olive oil and spices  in a large bowl.

 Strain the couscous and stir it into the tuna mixture while the couscous is still hot.

Right before serving, stir in the fresh herbs and scallions.

WINE:  A cold and crisp Sauvignon Blanc, perhaps a citrusy New Zealand bottle, would be a good choice for this salad.  No wine tonight?  Unsweetened Iced Tea with Lemon is a thirst-quenching choice.

DESSERT:  Sorbet–lemon or raspberry.
  

                         SO WHAT DID I THINK?

Overall, I liked it.  In fact, I liked it lots.  This is just my kind of food.  Fish, olive oil, lemons, olives…  An easy Mediterranean feel and not terribly expensive.  Good, healthy everyday eating with plenty of leftovers.  I adored the large amount of black pepper, which gave the salad a healthy warm zing without hot sauce or red pepper flakes.

What did I change?   While this is a basically healthy recipe and not terribly high in calories, I did cut the oil in half and I also cut the salt nearly in half.  The recipe calls for a tablespoon of salt, but I find Ina’s recipes sometimes a little salt heavy for optimum health.  I left nothing else out.    I did not use the jar of Italian tuna in oil called for, but rather used a can of premium, wild tuna packed in water.

What would I add? When I make this again (and I will), I’ll add another cup of fresh vegetables like chopped celery, or yellow bell peppers, or perhaps green beans cut into 1/2-inch pieces. The additional vegetables would decrease calories, increase fiber and nutrition, and stretch the recipe out a bit.  A few nuts for garnish  add some crunch, texture, character, and depth to the dish.   I had pine nuts, and added just a few on top.  Any chopped tree nuts would do, but pine nuts just fit in with this dish. 

If I had no basil, I imagine I’d be happy with fresh parsley or even parsley and thyme.

While the dish is plenty on its own, I could serve this with lots of sliced tomatoes or green peppers, a big bunch of green beans, or even a spinach salad.   If I hadn’t had dairy that day, I might add a small piece of cheese or a small scoop of cottage cheese with whole wheat crackers at the side of the plate.

 What might you do?  Big appetites would enjoy a bowl of soup with this meal… Some gazpacho or other tomato soup are two choices.  Don’t like couscous?  Make brown rice, orzo or any other tiny pasta like tubetti or ditalini.

Cook’s Note:  If serving the next day, save a little oil and lemon juice, as well as the basil and chopped scallions, to refreshen the salad before serving.

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ALL ABOUT INA FRIDAYS:

 The first Friday of the month, food bloggers from many parts of the world join together in posting a favorite Ina recipe.  This month we have main courses; next month is Desserts and Other or Miscellaneous Recipes.  Note:  After this round, drinks will go with appetizers instead of with Desserts and Other.

Stop in and see what our fine writers are cooking up today:

Are you a food blogger? We’d love to have you! Want to join in one time a month? Email Alyce @ afmorgan53@yahoo.com  or link in to join us once in a while (click on blue oval link button at bottom and follow prompts) only if you’re blogging Ina! No other posts, please?! 

It is possible some of our writers may be in and out of the Ina group periodically.  If you click on their blog and there’s no Ina recipe that day, check their index for previous entries or return another time.  Thanks.

IF YOU LIKED THIS, YOU MIGHT LIKE

alyce’s tuna-cannellini bean salad with feta

ingredients:

  • 6-7 oz can tuna, drained and flaked with a fork 
  • 15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained — or any canned white beans
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped finely
  • 4 scallions, minced (white and green)
  • 2 eggs, boiled and chopped*
  • 1 carrot, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh spinach or parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 anchovies, smashed or minced, optional
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1T red wine vinegar
  • 2T extra virgin olive oil
  • generous pinch each kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, crushed red or aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled or chopped feta

In a medium bowl, mix everything but the feta.  Taste and see what it needs.  Dry?  Add a bit more oil?  Bland?  Add a bit more red wine vinegar.  Spoon into bowls and garnish with crumbled or chopped feta.  Happy eating!

*I make these eggs in the microwave.  Spray a cereal bowl with PAM.  Add two eggs and poke with a sharp, small knife–once in each yolk and several times in whites.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and microwave on full power for 2 minutes.  Remove and let sit a minute or two to cool.  Carefully unwrap and tip bowl onto cutting board before chopping eggs.

Sing a new song,
Alyce

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Grilled Chicken with Couscous Greek Salad and Lemon Vinaigrette

Grilled Chicken with Couscous Greek Salad and Lemon Vinaigrette

Dedicated to Gus and Irene Matthews

Hello!  I missed you.  (Actually, I didn’t; I had no time to miss anything.)  But I’m happy to be back.  Thanks for being here.

Back from vacation and hot, hot, hot. HOT!  I know it’s hotter out east, and the temperature has been going down this afternoon as a storm approaches, but I sort of miss Canada.  Recipe way below if you’re interested…

I really miss being waited on.  Having my coffee delivered every morning.  Having no laundry (til I got home).  Being with Dave all the time without anything to distract us from one another. (Ah, gee.)
Making new friends I wish I were with this minute.

She could find a French cafe anywhere.
Did you know they make wine in Quebec?  I liked the dessert wines best and brought some home.
Dave’s favorite pose.
Coast of Cape Breton

Somewhere off the coast of Canada!
Me and my castle.

I guess I digressed, but we did wine and dine for nine days….  My favorite city (and we went on a ship from Montreal – Boston, visiting Quebec City, Prince Edward Island, Sydney, Halifax, and Bar Harbor in between) was Montreal; I’m dying to go back.  Our best meal was at Hamersley’s Bistro in Boston.  Many thanks to Lydia Walshin of Perfect Pantry fame, who recommended it as her favorite go-to.)  Balanced, accessible wine list. House-made pâté with crispy, crusty, chewy baguette.   Small, but perfect entree list; I chose “Lamb Three Ways.”  I now know there is a God.   Dave had roast chicken the likes of which I pray to taste again in my lifetime.  (I thought I made great roast chicken with pan juices.)  Kind, but refined service.  No snooty guys in long aprons rolling their eyes; these folks were genuine food-lovers who knew their restaurant and wanted to make sure you knew it, too.

Just go.

Did you come for a recipe?  Ah, grilled chicken and Greek salad!  About it:  I’ve made similar salads, but not quite exactly like this.  There’s one on the blog, but I thought the idea worth repeating as we love this come hot weather.  Grill up some chicken tenders or boneless breasts very quickly (Who even wants to stand in front of the grill?) while your partner makes a fast chopped Greek salad mixed with a bit of couscous.   If it’s just you doing all the cooking, make the vinaigrette and couscous first, next the mixed vegetables, then the chicken, and last, toss the salad.   Arrange it all on a big, beautiful platter (buy one–check out Good Will) and dinner is served.  It was so hot last night that we ate inside.

grilled chicken tenders with couscous greek salad   serves 4
             ingredients list below

1. Make a vinaigrette first: Whisk well together 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, 3/4 t Dijon-style mustard, a good pinch of salt, pepper, dried oregano and crushed red pepper.  Drizzle in slowly 1/2 cup olive oil and whisk until well-combined or thickened (emulsified.)   Set aside.

2. Make the couscous (see below) Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, chop 1/2 an English cucumber, 2 medium tomatoes, 1/2 green pepper (optional), 1/2 cup (1/4 #) feta cheese, 1/2 a small red onion (about 1/4 cup), and a 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley.  Add 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives.  Mix together gently with 1 tsp dried oregano, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and 1T red wine vinegar.  Set aside.

4.  Grill until just done (about 2 minutes on each side) 1 lb. of chicken tenders or boneless chicken breasts brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Place at center of serving platter.  Cover and let rest 2-4 minutes.

5.  When chicken is resting,  add 4 cups mixed greens and the 1 – 1 1/2 cups couscous to the vegetables and toss together.  Drizzle with lemon vinaigrette and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Uncover the chicken and  spoon the salad onto the serving platter around the chicken tenders.  Drizzle a bit more vinaigrette over the chicken and serve hot or at room temperature.

ingredients list: 

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil plus more for brushing on chicken
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons)
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 t dried oregano, divided
  • crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 English cucumber, unpeeled
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 green pepper
  • 1/4# feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • 1T red wine vinegar
  • 1# boneless chicken tenders
  • 1 – 1/12 cups cooked couscous*
  • 4 cups mixed fresh salad greens

*Buy a box of couscous with garlic.  Don’t follow the package directions.  Saute 2T minced onion and 1 clove minced garlic with a pinch each of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper until softened–a couple of minutes.   Add the required 1 1/4 cup water and seasoning packet and bring to a boil. Add dried couscous, cover, and remove from heat.  Let sit until you need it, then fluff with a fork.  Use the rest for lunches.

We drank a brilliant Oregon white with this:  Tony Soter‘s North Valley “Hyland White,” 2008–made from Riesling and Traminer vines.  I don’t know if they’re still making this wine.  At a quick glance, I didn’t see it on their website, but you should always call the vineyard to see what’s available.  If they only have a couple of cases or a few bottles, it won’t show on the site.  The winery, in 2008, made only 70 cases of this wine.

Here’s our wine group tasting at Soter a couple of years ago.

two-dog kitchen

The kids had Newman for supper last night.  They’ve been apart for so long!

Sing a new song,
Alyce

all photos and text copyright Alyce Morgan, 2012. no use without permission.  just ask.

Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

Welcome spring!

If you shop Trader Joe’s, you might know Israeli couscous–a bit more like round orzo than couscous.  Maybe you buy it?  And if you live in the metro D.C. area or read papers online, you might have read a recipe from the Washington Post a few weeks ago for a Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera.  I do not live in the D.C. area, though I did for years; these days my traveling husband occasionally brings me a WP home to Saint Paul.  I’m always glad to get it because it was the first paper away from Chicago to which I became really attached.   And as a food blogger, I like seeing what’s going on somewhere else food-wise.   If  you’re a regular reader, you know I rarely blog a recipe from a newspaper.  Until recently when I jumped on board the fun 50 Women Game-Changers in Food blogging adventure, I  blogged almost exclusively original recipes. This one’s yummy, though, and I wanted it on my own site–if only for my own self!  You can, and I did, buy everything you need to make this recipe at any Trader Joe’s.

I don’t know how you feel about Trader Joe’s.  People praise it to the highest heavens and you would have thought our lives were being saved from the plague if you listened to the around-town chat before the store opened on its tight corner with underground parking.   I was in grad school at St. Thomas that summer, and even I heard about it.   And this is a city with fine, locally-owned groceries we can walk to in nearly every neighborhood.  The beauty of Saint Paul!

So I’m of mixed emotions over what’s there–inside Trader Joe’s, I mean.  First off, I’m not drinking that wine not no-how.  Not even in Sangria.  I mean, have you tasted it?   I’d rather drink Coke and be sober.   Secondly, the produce (even though you can get cool things like fresh English peas) looks a little sad, a bit used, and not real green in both its meanings.  I mean, why wrap Italian parsley up on paper plates and in plastic?  The other thing is I have the sense (with no reason, I think) that some of this food might be processed in ways I wouldn’t like or in China maybe.   I feel like a snob.  And guess I am.  I repeat:  I have no basis for these feelings or ideas.  I even looked on the boxes of a few things I bought.  The Israeli couscous, for instance, says “Made in Israel.”  Duh.  The canned salmon is wild from Alaska.  Huh.

The chef is always right.  This sign is right by my main prep space.  Just cookin’.

But I go.  Once in a while.  I’ll only go at very specified times.  Like 10am on Tuesday.  If you try and shop at our Trader Joe’s in the afternoon, evening, or on the weekends, you just can’t get in and out of the parking lot or nearby streets.  The location, albeit the only one they could obtain in our city, is crowded, crowded.   While I’m there, I grab up stuff like sparkling pink lemonade in beautiful liter bottles, peanut-butter stuff pretzel chunks that are addictive, boxes of 100-calorie each scrumptious Belgian milk chocolate, and maybe even a plant or two.  Sometimes a little cheese, though I feel guilty not buying it at our local cheese shop, St. Paul Cheese, which is all of four blocks from my house.

Just because I should, I did a little digging and, if you’d like, you can read a professional review–a bit dated– of Trader Joe’s here.  It’s all good.  Nothing to substantiate my weird, stuck up feelings.
Well,  now that that’s off my chest…I can go on about the recipe.  Right?

I tape upcoming recipes on the door.
Things I’m testing or things I’d like to make sometime go up.  The couscous was up for a while before I got to it.

A wonderfully simple all-in-one spring side dish (or summer-add whatever vegetables), we enjoyed this as a foil to a rosemary-roasted pork loin drizzled with homemade barbeque sauce for our second annual “Lilacs are Blooming” dinner party.  (A leek soup with a bit of bacon was the first course that night, but that’s another blog.)  Appearing and tasting something like  risotto, this is much easier; the couscous is cooked in only 10 minutes and the entire dish in about 15–no long-lived ladling and stirring.     My notes or changes are in red.   Try this:

toasted israeli couscous primavera  courtesy WP/Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
  4 main-dish servings; 6 side-dish servings

2T olive oil, divided
2/3 c chopped scallions (1 bunch, white and light green parts)  I used ramps
1 1/2 cups dried Israeli couscous
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups no-salt added or homemade chicken broth, heated just to boiling
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon (2t zest, 2T juice)
8 oz asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted, or blanched fresh peas
2 oz baby spinach leaves
Aleppo pepper to taste
2T fresh parsley, chopped

  1. Heat 1 T of the oil in a 2-3 qt over medium heat.  Add the sallions; cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until just softened.
  2. Add the couscous and season with salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine.  Add the hot broth, lemon zest and juice.
  3. Bring to a boil and add asparagus and peas; cover.  Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so the broth is barely bubbling at the edges, until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is cooked through.
  4. Combine the spinach, the parsley and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large serving bowl.  Add the cooked couscous and vegetables and stir until the spinach has wilted.  
  5. Dust with aleppo pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve immediately.

Author’s Notes:  Couscous cooks quickly, and when it’s done, it will stick to the pan.   Keep a close eye on it, and stir every few minutes.  After cooking, the couscou will clump together if you let the dish sit too long.  Serve immediately, or add more oil if you plan to make the dish ahead of time.  Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth if desired.

My notes:  I didn’t add more oil, but I did add more broth to keep the dish moist.  I made it  right before our guests arrived for dinner, turned it off, and reheated it for serving.  It was tender,  moist, quite warm, and was not over-cooked even though I had kept it covered.

Made Derby pies for a friend’s Derby party…

Congratulations to Poor Man’s Feast--the blogging winner for the James Beard Awards!  Give a shout-out!

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Easing on into Easter or It Snowed on my Lilac Buds

Easing on into Easter or It Snowed on my Lilac Buds

Pork Tenderloin, Couscous and Sauteed Vegetables with Balsamic Fig Sauce

 Wherever I’ve lived, with the exception of San Antonio, there has been freak weather like snow on Halloween and Easter.  (Is it really freak?)  My own memories of Easter just south of Chicago are not necessarily warm and beautiful, but neither are they freezing with snow.  Perhaps I misremember.  But my kids’ Easter (and Halloween) photos show a yearly progression from clown to Easter lily all in a background of white.

This year may prove no different.

Here’s this morning’s view.

Doesn’t look like it’ll stay for long.  Below:  lilac trees ( no bushes in my yard) in frozen bud
 

 Below:   What they should (and will again) look like.

Coming up on Palm Sunday, this Sunday, I always know that while it’s just a week until Easter, it’s also forever.  This might come from my years as a director of church music.  For two reasons:  1.  The time spent preparing the music for 4-6 services within one week is a learning experience.  Sometimes it includes a Lenten cantata.  It always includes a humdinger of an Easter anthem.  If ever you’re going to pull out all the stops (and that’s literally here), this is the time.  2.  You’re right there, living it all.  The lyrics to from Palm or Passion Sunday through Easter are not just powerful, they are both life-giving and life-changing.

I will send the Holy Spirit to you….  He’ll remind you all the things that I’ve said and—–I will always be with you.

Each pastor I worked with had different favorite Holy Week texts, so every year I’d read them and every year I knew them better (that’s not to say well). And while I knew the differences between the gospels (ok, this year the text has one angel; we can’t do THAT song where there are TWO), I’m not sure I understood them any better for it.  I did, though, become more thoughtful about how and why it all happened.  I had more time than most to consider what the disciples did all day on Friday or what the weight of that stone might be.  Your mind runs around as a sacred musician.   You’re the dreamer.  I knew that my faithful folks had one combined vision/story of the week.  Some couldn’t handle it and opted out of Thursday or Friday night services.  They liked going from the palms to the lilies.  That broke my heart.  Because without the hopeful meal teaching a new commandment on Thursday, the frightful heart-breaking cold of Friday, and the long looking of Saturday, we have no flowery bonnets, alleluia music, egg hunt or brunch.  We have no life, no plan, no nothing, nada, zip, zero, zap.

   

What?  No chocolate?**

Pork Tenderloin with Couscous, Sauteed Vegetables and Balsamic Fig Sauce 
  Serves 6 (divide or multiply)
Couscous:
2 boxes couscous (olive oil and garlic variety)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup raisins

Pork:
3 pork tenderloins
3 cloves of garlic, slivered
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6T olive oil, divided

Vegetables:
2 medium eggplant
2 each:  sweet yellow and red pepper
2 large red onions, cut into 1/8s
12 oz button mushrooms
2 each:  zucchini and yellow squash
Sauce:
6T fig jam (often in the cheese section of a good grocery)
4T balsamic vinegar (or more to taste–be careful)
3T white wine (can use lemon juice instead)
  1. Make couscous basically according to package directions, but first saute the onion in a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the raisins, the water…etc.  Cover to keep warm after done. Set aside.   Later, fluff with a fork and grind a little pepper over the top for garnish.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. Heat a large grill pan, roasting pan or the bbq grill* to medium high.   Meantime,   brush the meat with oil and make 10-12 slits (fairly evenly) on each of the three pork tenderloins.  Insert a sliver of garlic into each slit.  Salt and pepper well.
  4. Grill the pork for 4-5 minutes over high heat.  Turn; repeat. Remove from stove and place pan in oven.  (You can take meat from grill pan and put it in a large casserole even.)  Let meat cook until instant meat thermometer reads 150 for medium-rare, 155 for medium and 160 for done.  Remove from oven and cover lightly with foil  Let rest 5-10 minutes.
  5. Meantime (or ahead), in a large skillet (or two large skillets), saute vegetables in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Season well with salt and pepper, but don’t add other herbs here unless you just have to.  (The can fight with the fig sauce.)  If your vegetables are done before the meat, you can re-heat briefly in the pan(s).
  6. Alternately, you can roast these vegetables in the oven on a half-sheet pan ahead of time and reheat them while the meat rests. 
  7. Make fig sauce:  In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Drizzle over meat at serving time. 
  8. * If you decide to grill, brown the meat well and then lower the heat and cover until done.   
What else?
A small salad?  Some cheese?  Someone brings rolls or bread? Definitely deviled eggs!  If no one will make a bunny cake, buy a great cheesecake and call it Easter.  Keep it festive and thoughtful.  Some Easter grass and a few eggs on the table are quick decorations.  You might also want to make my carrot cake cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and jellie bellies.


The link there is for my article on examiner.com, which doesn’t give my recipe for carrot cake, but provides for other options.  My own cake and frosting is right here on the blog, of course.

Wine?  I like a Syrah here.  Go California; the prices on California Syrahs are great right now.  Qupe is luscious and inexpensive.  If you want to spend a bit more, get the phone now and quickly order some Cristom Syrah (only the ’07 is left) and tell them to quick-ship, if possible.  The Cristom will be less fruity, spicier and will assuredly have more pepper.
I’ll be thinking of you this week, as we all make this trip without skipping one piece of scenery and then sing a new song,
Alyce 
**Chocolate bunny pic: courtesy Twice Pix
And this year, in some ways, is no different.  I don’t have a choir to prepare (and I miss every one always), I have myself.  This year, again, I’m reading THE LAST WEEK by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  I’ll be in worship tomorrow thinking about how Jesus appeared to the woman on the street.  Sitting on a donkey.  Or why people still stripped off their clothes and threw them down in front of him.  And then I’ll begin the long walk of Holy week.

Oh, dear:  did you come here for a recipe?  This one’s sooo simple; I promise.  It’s great for two, but is easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled or whatever.  Get someone else to bring the deviled eggs and the bunny cake.  You’ve got Easter dinner covered.