Picnic Perfect Israeli Couscous

IMG_7418.jpg

It’s almost time for Thanksgiving! Whether you are hosting it yourself or just bringing a side dish to the celebration, why not offer your guests something just a little bit unexpected? While I know my dream of throwing a Moroccan themed Thanksgiving will never come to fruition, (my family likes to keep it traditional) I can still sneak in the occasional side dish with some Mediterranean flavors!

This is a great potluck dish because it can be eaten hot or cold. It has big, bright sweet and savory flavors and makes a pretty accompaniment on any plate. I originally created this recipe for an outdoor picnic brunch, hence the name, so as you can see it is a quite the versatile side dish!

Picnic Perfect Israeli Couscous

makes about 10 servings

3.5 cups vegetable broth

1 tbs olive oil

1 1/2 cups Israeli Couscous

1/2 cup orzo

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 orange bell pepper, finely chopped

zest + juice of one small lemon

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/3 chives, finely choppped

1/3 cup mint leaves, finely chopped

1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup yellow raisins, roughly chopped

2 tsp red pepper flakes (or adjust to your spiciness preference)

1 tsp turmeric

salt to taste

1 additional splash of olive oil

 

Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the olive oil, couscous, orzo, and quinoa and return to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 10 minutes.

While that’s cooking, get all your other ingredients chopped up. Once the couscous mixture is cooked, stir in all the remaining ingredients. Keep the pot over the heat and stir for a couple minutes to let all the flavors really blend. Serve hot or cold!

IMG_7421.jpg

Ratatouille Spiral

Ratatouille

As visually striking as this is, the flavors are humble, mellow, and comforting. I made this for my mom’s birthday, and was so excited to see even the veggiephobes going back for seconds. The best part is, this ratatouille spiral is easier than it looks! Well, if you have a mandolin that is, otherwise it’s still easy but will take a bit longer. We served this with lemony saffron rice, crusty french bread, sausages, and a salad of arugula, strawberries, pine nuts, and balsamic reduction. I also served the ratatouille with some homemade cashew cream sauce for drizzling over the top. Overall a nice meal and not overly rich! You could even make this in a pie crust for an extra special ratatouille pie. When choosing your vegetables, try to find ones that are pretty similar in diameter, which is why the recipe calls for a Chinese eggplant, because it is similar in size to the zucchini and yellow squash. You can use any kind of eggplant you like, but you will want to cut your slices in half or thirds to be uniform with the zucchini and yellow squash. This photo was before it went in the oven, because afterwards, it got gobbled up too fast for pictures. (And it looked about the same.)

Ratatouille Spiral
makes about 6 servings
3 tbs olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 can pureed tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tsp Italian seasonings
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
A few fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 Chinese eggplants
2 zucchinis
2 yellow squashes
2 tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme
Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and saute 1 more minute, then add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 5 minutes, adding a splash of water if it starts to stick. Pour sauce into the bottom of a 9” pie pan.
Next cut the woody end pieces off of all your veggies. Set the mandolin to slightly less that 1/4 inch (super duper thin!) and get to slicing- long ways.
If you don’t have a mandolin, that’s ok, just cut very thin slices with a sharp knife. This is a little more time consuming, but not really a big deal.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Now, you will start on the outermost perimeter, and layer your way in toward the center. Pick up a slice, and lay it against the inner wall of the pan, thin peel edge against the bottom. Do this all around, spiraling inward, alternating veggies as you go. They can overlap by an inch or so. The tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan helps to hold them in place.
Keep going until you get to the center, the tight and more upright the slices are, the better. For the very last one you’ll have to roll up the slice like a little cigar and stick it in the center.
Now use a pastry brush to brush the 2 tbs of olive oil all over the top, and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme.
Pop it in the oven for about 35 minutes, but keep an eye on it, it’s done when the edges start to brown, the veggies are visibly softened, and the sauce starts to bubble up between the layers.ratatouille spiral