Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lemon Couscous With Chickpeas, Red Peppers And Toasted Almonds

Couscous, often mistakenly called a grain, is actually a pasta made up of tiny pearls of wheat dough. To save time, purchase instant couscous, which has been presteamed and is ready in only a few minutes once combined with hot liquid.

Thanks to my daughter, I have finally grown to adore couscous!


1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. olive oil

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 3/4 cups chicken broth

1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 1/2 cups instant couscous

3/4 cup slivered almonds

1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

3/4 cup brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped

Juice from 1 lemon

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Prepare the couscous

In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the broth, the 1/2 tsp. salt and several grinds of pepper and bring to a boil. Place the couscous in a large stainless-steel bowl and pour the hot liquid over it. Blend well with a fork, cover with a plate and let stand for 5 minutes.

Toast the almonds

Meanwhile, in a large fry pan over medium heat, warm 1 Tbs. of the olive oil. Add the almonds and toast, stirring, until crisp and golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

Assemble the salad

Fluff the couscous with a fork. Add the almonds, chickpeas, bell pepper, olives, lemon juice, parsley and the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil to the couscous. Toss gently to combine. Taste, adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast Series, Salad, by Brigit L. Binns (Oxmoor House, 2007).

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Shortcake For Strawberries

It's that time of the year again...Strawberry Shortcake time, one of my favorite desserts.

Keep this shortcake recipe handy somewhere in your kitchen for it is one of the easiest and most delightful ways to serve fruit from now until the end of summer.  Peaches, blueberries and apricots are a great substitute for the strawberries.  It's the perfect dessert for the night after a visit to the farmer's market.

This recipe comes from Dorie Greenspan's book Baking From My Home To Yours, a must have for bakers.

Yield: 10 Servings


4 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbsp. baking powder

¾ tsp. salt

6 Tbsp. sugar

1 ½ sticks (12 Tbsp.) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 ½ cups cold heavy cream


Center a rack in the oven, and preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips, pinch and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. Some pieces of butter will be about the size of peas, while other will be more like flakes of oatmeal.

Pour the cream over the dry ingredients, and toss and gently turn the ingredients with a fork until you’ve got a very soft dough. You’ll probably still have some flour at the bottom of the bowl, so reach in and use your hand to mix and gently knead the dough until it’s evenly blended. But don’t get overzealous: it’s better to have a few dry spots than an overworked dough. The dough should be soft and sticky.

Cut the dough into 10 roughly equal portions (each will be about 1/3 cup), and put 5 or 6 of them on the baking sheet, leaving about 3 inches of space between them. Pat each portion down until it’s about 1 inch high. [The shortcakes can be made to this point, wrapped in plastic wrap, and stashed in the freezer. Bake without defrosting – just add 5+ minutes to the baking time.]

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheet from front to back midway through, until the shortcakes are puffed and give just a little when poked with a fingertip. Pull the pan from the oven, and carefully transfer the shortcakes to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheet first.

Serve the shortcakes slightly warm or at room temperature. To serve, use a serrated knife to gently cut each cake in half horizontally. (They’re fragile, so go easy.) Put the bottom halves on plates, top with berries and whipped cream (unsweetened, and softly whipped), and then cap with the top halves.

From Dorie Greenspan Baking


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