Picnic Perfect Israeli Couscous

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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!

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Eggplants Around the World: Moroccan Zaalouk

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Aubergine, brinjal, melongene, garden egg, guinea squash, baingan, melanzana… whatever name you call them, eggplants are awesome. Wikipedia tells me that eggplants, being the night shades that they are, are a relative of the tobacco plant, which might explain my addiction to them (although you’d need to eat thirty pounds in order to get the nicotine equivalent of one cigarette, I still think they are crave-worthy, and certainly better for you!) I was looking for a new eggplant recipe to try and came upon a few really cool dishes from other cultures, so this week I’m going to do three posts about eggplant recipes from different ethnic cuisines. It seems that just about every corner of the globe has their own signature dish to showcase the giant purple berry. First up is a tomato/eggplant dip from Morocco, which can be eaten hot or cold. It’s spicy and rich, perfect for scooping onto pita chips or flatbreads. You can also serve it hot over some rice, or rolled up in a lavash wrap with some shredded cabbage for a quick meal. One generous serving of this yummy spread is about 150 calories.

Moroccan Zaalouk

Makes 3 meal sized servings, 6 appetizer sized servings

1tbs olive oil

1 eggplant

3 large ripe tomatoes

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp harissa

2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cumin 

1/8 tsp cayenne

6 cloves garlic, finely minced

1/3 cup fresh cilantro and parsley, mixed

Juice from 1 lemon wedge

3/4 cup water

Peel the eggplant and tomatoes and chop them up. 

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium/high heat and add the eggplant, tomatoes, and spices, stirring occasionally.

After about 20 minutes, add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring. If the mixture starts to stick and dry out, add a splash of water, only 1/4 cup at a time as needed. 

After another 15 minutes, add the cilantro, parsley, and lemon and cook for 5 more minutes. Smash the eggpplant and tomoto a bit with the back of a fork or potato masher to break them down. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Garnish with a little olive oil and fresh chopped parsley if desired. It would also make a complimentary side dish to Moroccan Spiced Stew.IMG_4092

Moroccan Spice Stew

Moroccan Spice Stew

I started out wanting to make a simple pureed carrot soup. But then I just kept thinking of more and more ingredients I wanted to add, and I realized that what I really wanted was to recreate one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I’m talking about a giant bowl of assorted Moroccan food that I got from the food court at the Louvre Museum, in France. The first and only time I went to Paris on a college class trip, we were primarily there to visit all the museums and sketch the landscapes. As an art college graduate I’m embarrassed to admit that I found the trip a leeeeeeetle bit dull, but that might have just been because I didn’t really know any of the other students. Besides the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower, the main thing I really remember about that trip was that fantastic Moroccan food in the Louvre food court, from a little spot called Salam. I will never forget it! I think it was the first time I tried cinnamon in a savory dish, or maybe the first time I ever tried anything with that many intense spices, but I was just in heaven. So if you ever go to France, you already know what attraction I recommend. And yes it’s a museum food court buffet. Ah, I’m so classy.

 

Moroccan Spice Stew

Makes about 5 big servings

2 large carrots

1 red onion

1 sweet green pepper (I used a banana pepper)

4 tablespoons of olive oil or coconut oil

20 small green olives, slivered + 5 for garnish

5 dates, slivered (or 1/3 cup golden raisins)

8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp cayenne

1.5 tsp salt, or to taste

4 ounces tomato paste

4 cups vegetable stock

1 15 oz can chickpeas (or about 2 1/2 cups soaked from dry beans)

1/4  cup slivered toasted almonds

a few sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped

 

Start by chopping the carrots into a very small dice. I made the mistake of cutting them into to big chunks, and they cook at a much slower rate that all the rest of the ingredients, so I had to cook longer and thus blend the flavors more than I wanted. So a small dice. Next dice up the onion and green pepper. Heat the oil in a large cast iron pot or similar, and add the carrot, onion, green pepper, olives, and dates. Sauté on medium/high heat for about 10 minutes, until everything is softened.

Next add the garlic, cinnamon, ginger, cumin, cayenne, and salt, and stir for 1 additional minute. If it gets to dry and starts to stick to the pan at any point, just give it a little splash of the vegetable stock.

Now add the tomato paste and vegetable stock, stirring well to incorporate everything. After about 5 minutes add the chickpeas and stir them in. Give it a taste, adjust the seasoning to your liking, and continue cooking on medium/high for about 5 minutes.  Test a carrot, if it seems cooked through, you are done! If you want a bit milder tasting stew, you can continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes on medium/low, which will allow all the really striking flavors-like olive and date and onion- to meld together. I personally like the flavor explosion sensation of cooking everything just enough to maintain their individuality.

Serve over a heaping pile of couscous or just in a bowl as is. Garnish with the toasted almond slivers, olive slivers, and chopped parsley, maybe some black pepper. Dig in!

 

 

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