Israeli Couscous with Sautéd Squash, Roasted Tomatoes & Garlic

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I like comfort food.  Which usually means a mouthful of pasta.  I especially like it when it is small enough that I can simply scoop spoonfuls into my mouth.  Gosh, I hope that doesn't sound gross. But it is quite satisfying.  Which is why I love creating salads that fit that agenda.  As with my Orzo Salad, this Israeli Couscous dish has that same mouthfeel.  Flavor in every bite filled with the comfort of a pasta.  Small enough that it's easy to spoon, swallow and spoon again.  Oh, yeah, don't forget to chew.

I created this dish for a Ladies' Lunch for my Mom and the women's group at her condo.  They were gracious enough to allow me to cater the lunch for them, and I had a blast doing it.  I will post more about the entire meal but for now, let's focus on spooning some of this salad for your next lunch, dinner side dish or BBQ party.  When I came up with idea it was to satisfy what I thought the women would enjoy as well as a dish that would be easy to make given all the other items I was making.  What I didn't even realize at the time was that this Israeli Couscous plays off the same idea as my Garlic Rice with Sautéd Zucchini & Tomatoes.  I found that recipe as I was writing this one so I could share other zucchini ideas. And there it was, along with several others.

Apparently, there are a million ways to serve up zucchini.  So here's a quick reminder of a few I have experimented with and achieved success.  Try them out while the weather is zucchini friendly.
Zucchini Crudo with Shaved Parmigiano & Mint Oil
Zucchini Orzo Pie
Zucchini Carpaccio
Balsamic Bathed Carrots Wrapped with Zucchini
An Asian Twist to Zucchini Ribbons

Now back to the main attraction. This is one of those dishes that you can literally being cooking, cutting, sautéing all at the same time.  A multitasking wonder. So I have written the instructions in a way to be most efficient. 

Ingredients

1.5 cups Israeli Couscous
1 large zucchini, cubed
1-2 small yellow squash, cubed
1 medium shallot, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, oven roasted
4-5 whole garlic cloves
2-3 T basil, chiffonade
1 c olive Oil
1 t coarse salt
1/2 t pepper
*Note: You can alter the couscous to veg ratio if you like more of one.  Totally up to you.

 Slice the squashes lengthwise first.  Then strips, then cubes.

Slice the squashes lengthwise first.  Then strips, then cubes.

 

Instructions

1. Roast the grape tomatoes in 1/2 c olive oil with whole cloves of garlic.  Refer to the oil roasted recipe in my post The  Great Tomato Caper.

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2.  While the tomatoes roast, cut the zucchini, yellow squash and shallots and sauté them separately in oil. Season with salt and pepper, adding half the shallots to each batch, once they are partially cooked.  You don't want to add the shallots first as they will burn.

 Nice little cubes all the same size so you get a piece in every spoonful.

Nice little cubes all the same size so you get a piece in every spoonful.

 Zucchini cubed up

Zucchini cubed up

3. While the squashes are sautéing, cook the Israeli Couscous as you would any type of pasta, in a large pot of salted boiling water.  Cook until al dente.  Drain and set aside in a serving bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil so it doesn't stick and let cool.

 Gorgeous pearls of pasta

Gorgeous pearls of pasta

4.  Once the tomatoes are done, remove the garlic from their skins and mash them with a fork and course salt.  Add 1/4 c olive oil, pepper to taste and whisk together.

 Grapes tomatoes oven roasted in luscious oil with roasted garlic.

Grapes tomatoes oven roasted in luscious oil with roasted garlic.

 Sweet and tender garlic.

Sweet and tender garlic.

 Smash to create a paste.

Smash to create a paste.

5. It is best to mix the roasted garlic oil into the couscous while it is still warm so the flavors absorb, but you can mix it at room temperature, too. Be sure to thoroughly incorporate.
6. Chiffonade the basil (cutting them in strips) and add to the couscous.
7. Then add some of the juices from the roasted tomatoes, the tomatoes and sautéed squashed. Gently mix until combined.  Serve room temperature.

 A bowl of goodness that is pure pleasure to eat spoonful after spoonful.

A bowl of goodness that is pure pleasure to eat spoonful after spoonful.

This is one of those dishes that is both hearty but light at the same time.  The couscous is a pasta so it does do the job of satisfyingly fill you up, but the lightness of the veggies make it feel summertime fresh, especially served room temperature or even chilled.  

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I made this out of love.
Love of pasta.
Love for my Mom.
Love to share with others.

 

Print Friendly Recipe

 

Sunday Blues - of the Soothing, Swooning Kind

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So the story goes... I needed to go to IKEA.  You must be wondering why, since I don’t need another napkin or tablecloth, dish or candle, or anything for that matter.  But alas, we did need a new patio table. Pause a moment, to digest the thought that we are replacing our 17 year old IKEA teak table with the exact same table. Not only proving the enduring quality of some of IKEA’s items, but lo and behold, the table's solid quaility has kept it on their selling list after all these years.  Since we loved it so much, why mess with a good thing.  And that was what steered my vehicle to IKEA.

 The brand, spanking new  IKEA table .  And it was the very last one standing in the aisle.  I totally lucked out.

The brand, spanking new IKEA table.  And it was the very last one standing in the aisle.  I totally lucked out.

Now, I'm sure many of you have wandered through IKEA and know that there is only one route... the one they force you to take through the entire store.  Naturally, on my search for the table, I picked up a few other items along the way.  It’s one of those stores where you say, “oh, this is only $5, and that is only $3”. But by the time all your items roll down the conveyor belt into the big blue plastic IKEA bag you just purchased (again) to carry home your 'stuff', it is too late and the complete and utter sticker price shock of the final total hits, and hits hard.  Every dollar truly does add up, my friends. It’s a brilliant tactic.  Price a bunch of stuff low, creating a false 'inexpensive'  buying experience and then when the customer hasn't realized it they just spent a fortune in your store.  There is a sucker born every day, and I was born again on that day.

In filing up of my big blue bag, I happened upon blue and white dish towels. Why? you ask. Didn't I just say I don't need another thing?  Well, because I am drawn to simple, pretty things.  I can’t tell explain exactly why, but I absolutely adore the stark contrast of blue against white. Like a vision of some Greek village. It makes my knees buckle.  So I bought two packs. I wasn’t sure if I would make pillows out of them.  Use them as actual dish towels? Incorporate them into one of my apron designs?  I just had to have them.  It’s a sickness, I fully recognize that.  Who gets swoony over dish towels?  Apparently... ME.

I did none of the above with them. Instead they came to the rescue in another way. We were hosting a BBQ this past Sunday and since I was feeling quite under the weather I didn't have a tablecloth plan.  Literally 1 hour before the guests arrived I still had decided what the table would look like. These dish towels would now become napkins that would grace my outdoor table-scape.  I guess my hubby knew that blue and white swoons me because when I asked him to pick me up flowers in the city at Dahlia, what did he choose? Blue and Whites.  It was fate.

 3 arrangements lined the center table and created a harmony of blue.

3 arrangements lined the center table and created a harmony of blue.

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As I unrolled the dish towels, I realized each one was a different graphic design, and if even possible, I loved them that much more. So my need for high contrast, plus my obsession with not being matchy-matchy was thoroughly satisfied. A cornflower blue tablecloth tossed down, white dishes stacked up in order of food served, topped with blue and white IKEA dishtowels twisted once pluse florals to repeat the theme... I’d say Sunday afternoon blues are feeling just fine.

 A single, simple twist of the 'napkin' placed over the stack of dishes creates an laid back vibe. LOVE LOVE LOVE the different graphic pattern and how easy and casual it makes it all feel.

A single, simple twist of the 'napkin' placed over the stack of dishes creates an laid back vibe.
LOVE LOVE LOVE the different graphic pattern and how easy and casual it makes it all feel.

Then for the menu, I pulled from some summertime favorites:

Appetizers
Zucchini Crudo with Shaved Parmigiano & Mint Oil
Tomato/Mozzarella Tarts
Cucumber topped with Smoked Trout & Sour Cream

 Zucchini Crudo

Zucchini Crudo

Cucumber/Smoked Trout rounds are easy.  Chop the trout into small pieces, mix with sour cream, using a scoop dollop onto a slice of cucumber and top with more sour cream.

 Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

Tomato & Mozzarella Tart

 Cucumber topped with smoked trout & sour cream

Cucumber topped with smoked trout & sour cream

InterMezzo
Steamed Mussels with ciabatta

 Steamed mussels with herbs, garlic and wine.

Steamed mussels with herbs, garlic and wine.


First course
Pasta with fresh herbs & garlic, grated Parmigiano Reggiano & Roasted Tomatoes

Main Course
Grilled Iberíco Pork Shoulder & End Loin  
Grilled Langostinos
Corn on the Cob
Nectarine/Corn Arugula Salad

 Presa Iberíca and Pluma Iberíca are pork should and end loin cuts from Iberíco pigs.  The pork is marbled with flavorful fat that melts in your melt like no other. You can buy them these frozen only at  Despaña SoHo .

Presa Iberíca and Pluma Iberíca are pork should and end loin cuts from Iberíco pigs.  The pork is marbled with flavorful fat that melts in your melt like no other. You can buy them these frozen only at Despaña SoHo.

 Large and juicy, langostinos on the grill are divine.

Large and juicy, langostinos on the grill are divine.

 Nectarine and Raw Corn Salad over Arugula and Boston Lettuce with an orange/lime vinigiarette.

Nectarine and Raw Corn Salad over Arugula and Boston Lettuce with an orange/lime vinigiarette.

Dessert
Peach Cobbler
Honey Dew
Cheese/Fruit Plate
S'Mores

 This is a recipe from Ina Garten

This is a recipe from Ina Garten

 Creates a nice crust to crack into with warm peaches below, then served with whipped cream

Creates a nice crust to crack into with warm peaches below, then served with whipped cream

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It was a wonderful day filled with LOVE. 
Food made with LOVE.
New  friends and old friends full of LOVE.
And blues that make you the other 's' word -  swoon

 

The new white marble LOVE addition to my collection was gifted to me with love by Angelica. You can never have too much.

 Love is is the air. Angelica and Marcos

Love is is the air. Angelica and Marcos

 JuanCarlos manning the grill, fortified with hydration.                                             Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanCarlos manning the grill, fortified with hydration.                                            Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

 Gathering around the grill with our friends from Bilboa, Spain: Ana, JuanFran, their daughters, and Cecila   Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Gathering around the grill with our friends from Bilboa, Spain: Ana, JuanFran, their daughters, and Cecila

Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

 Who doesn't love the hammock.  Also, in blue and white.                                    Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

Who doesn't love the hammock.  Also, in blue and white.                                   Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

 JuanFran, quite the chef himself,  giving JC a hand.                                               Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

JuanFran, quite the chef himself,  giving JC a hand.                                              Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

 We have the A-OK sign!                                                                                           Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

We have the A-OK sign!                                                                                          Photo credit: Angelica Intriago

 Amore!!!                                                                                                          Photo credit:   asithappens.format.com    

Amore!!!                                                                                                         Photo credit: asithappens.format.com

 

Eucalyptus Burst - A Floral Spray

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It's been awhile since I have presented floral ideas.  Kinda makes me sad since I love flowers and love arranging them. Anyone who knows me, knows my obsession with flowers.  Fact is, I've been traveling around and have not been to the city much, therefore haven't visited my favorite NYC floral shop, Dahlia * in Grand Central Station.  Hence the lack of floral inspiration. But I happened upon an arrangement I created awhile back that I thought I would share.  My idea, if you don't have real flowers to look at, at least look at a pretty picture.  I am stretching it a bit?? Maybe.

This is not my usual color scheme, or theory on color, which is why I wanted to share it with you.  As I have often professed, I prefer to stick with a single color theme and vary the flower types, or when mixing colors stick to two of high contrast.  This arrangement does neither.  Go figure. Yet somehow it worked. Well, at least for me.

One of the leaves I really enjoy working with is eucalyptus.  But not the one with the highly intense aroma, and inflexible stem version. I like the leafy, droopy kind. Their branches are long and bit floppy which produces a huge spray that creates a wonderful backdrop for the florals.

After choosing the eucalyptus, for some reason I then selected three very different colors of 2 different flowers. 

  • Deep Red and Yellow Alstroemeria
  • Pale Pink Lysianthus

 A very odd day for me, apparently.  

 Ready, set, arrange.

Ready, set, arrange.

Often times when using eucalyptus branches I reach for a tall vase. (However, I have also arranged them in a long, low vessel to create a wide arrangement that was super dramatic.) 
Proportion is everything with flowers. This long tulip shaped vase was a wedding gift, and I adore it.  I usually add stones to lift the stems a bit. 

 Decorative stones in the bottom help to lift the stems.

Decorative stones in the bottom help to lift the stems.

 Tall and elegant, the wide mouth aids in creating a full boquet.

Tall and elegant, the wide mouth aids in creating a full boquet.

Once the branches are placed to create that spray, I started with the Lysianthus, placing them around knowing I would fill in with the other two flowers.

 Grouping all the Lysianthus together creates a higher point of interest.

Grouping all the Lysianthus together creates a higher point of interest.

My thought was to color block since I had such varying colors.  I concentrated the pale pinks in the center, then surrounded them by the yellow Alstroemeria.  Since the deep red Alstroemeria had yellow in their centers, I surrounded the yellow flowers with the red.  

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 A burst of pure joy.

A burst of pure joy.

This turned out to be an interesting color palette, and one that seems to work due in part to keeping the same colors blocked together for the most part.  I also feel the reason it works is because the massive size and spray of eucalyptus.  The key aspect of flower arranging is do what brings a smile to your face, and a sense of peace when you see them. In this episode of creating floral joy, I chose a Eucalyptus Burst.

 

* I can't stress enough how I adore the flowers and service at Dahlia.  Their prices are always reasonable and the flowers durable.  If you go to the Grand Central location, ask for Simone.  She is the best.

 
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Screaming Shrimp Cooled by Creamy Avocado & Tomato

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Shrimp; sure their name might denote that they are small in size, but they are big in versatility.  As Bubba so notably recited, "Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That, that’s about it.”  Well, that's where I disagree with Bubba. There are a thousand ways to prepare a shrimp.  Which makes them a perfect non meat dish to serve for a dinner party or crowd. Plus most people love shrimp. (Minus those poor souls with that horrible allergic reaction in the form of swelling, non breathing and other awful symptoms. So sorry for that group.)  

Shrimp, in any form, on a big platter equals party pleaser.  I have found this out the hard way.  Early on in our entertaining days, since I'm a pescatarian, we would make shrimp for me when meat was the main course.  But soon found out that everyone else loved them so much that they would eat up the small amount we made.  We realized that we often didn't make enough for everyone to partake.  Rookie move...that we remedied that quite quickly.  Now, if shrimp is on the menu, it's in quantities that can feed the entire crowd, not just selfish me.

If we get larger size shrimp (does that mean they aren't really shrimp?) then we often leave the shells on. It exudes a ton of flavor.  Marinate and cook them fully cloaked so that all that flavor from the shell cooks into the shrimp meat.   Then suck on the shell before peeling it off.  Don't groan and tell me that's gross.  It's delicious.  For this recipe you can peel the shell first or leave it on.  Your choice.  Either way this dish is about the play off the heat of the spicy shrimp cooled by the creaminess of the avocado and fresh cool tomato that makes it so satisfying.  I like this dish for a summer outdoor party or a late Saturday afternoon lunch. 

 The setup.

The setup.

Ingredients

1.5 lb. large shrimp
2 avocados, cut into chunks
scrapings of avocado from the skin
2-3 medium (heirloom) tomatoes, thick slices
3-4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 T jalapeño pepper, finely minced*
1/2 - 1 T Chili oil, or 1-2 t crushed red pepper flakes* 
1.5 -2 T ginger, grated*
1.5 T cilantro, chopped
1/2 c red onion, sliced
1 t salt
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 c white wine to deglaze pan
2 c basmati rice
1/4 c scallions, sliced
1/3 c cilantro
1 lemon, quartered
* These ingredients bring the heat. Adjust the amount according to how hot you like your food.

Dressing

avocado scrapings from the inside of the shell
2 T fresh lemon juice
salt, pepper
1/2 c Olive oil
Whisk together all above ingredients
1 T cilantro, minced for garnish
1 T scallions, sliced for garnish

 

Instructions

In a bowl, combine garlic, jalapeño, chili oil, cilantro, ginger, scallions, red onion, salt and oil.  Mix together with shrimp ensuring all are coated.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour to marinate.  

 Make it sing with spice!

Make it sing with spice!

 Combine it all in non reactive bowl. I like glass

Combine it all in non reactive bowl. I like glass

 Let those shrimps get cozy with heat.

Let those shrimps get cozy with heat.

While the shrimp are marinating, cook the rice.  I use 1.5 times water to rice ratio, bringing the water to a boil then adding rice.  I add a touch of salt to the water, cover and lower the heat to a simmer.   Let it cook around 15-18 minutes until light and fluffy.

 Nothing better than fluffy rice.  It's begging for some accents, like scallions and cilantro.

Nothing better than fluffy rice.  It's begging for some accents, like scallions and cilantro.

Cut the tomatoes and avocado and assemble your plates so that you only have to add the shrimp and serve.  Make the dressing by scraping out the odds and ends from the avocado shell.  Add them to all the dressing ingredients an whisk together, and set aside. 

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You can create a family style platter. Or you can individually plate them using the avocado shells to hold the rice.   

Then sauté the shrimp in a cast iron pan over medium high heat.  You want to get a nice sear on both sides. Shrimp do not take but 2-3  minutes to cook.  Keep in mind that they will continue to cook once removed from the heat. 

 Get some good color and crust on them.  Yum!

Get some good color and crust on them.  Yum!

While the shrimp are cooking, toss the scallions and cilantro into the rice.  You can plate it by using the avocado shells, or simply plate alongside the tomato and avocado. Be creative, and make a pretty plate.

 Fill the shell as a rice holder.

Fill the shell as a rice holder.

 Or just lay the rice up against the tomatoes.

Or just lay the rice up against the tomatoes.

After all the shrimp are cooked, sauté the marinade in the pan, then add a splash of white wine. 

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Pour over the shrimp and place them on the platter, garnishing with the lemon pieces.  Drizzle the avocado dressing over the tomatoes and avocado. You can sprinkle more cilantro over the shrimp with a squeeze of lemon, too. Serve immediately. 

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I love all the textures of this dish.  Fluffy, soft rice. Crisp, sweet but spicy shrimp. Creamy Avocado and Cool, sweet tomatoes.  What's not to love?  Let your shrimp scream.

Zucchini Carpaccio

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Carpaccio refers to raw, thin slices.  Most people typically use this method for beef or fish. But why limit its focus.  The technique can be applied to any food really.  That's when I elected to employ its useful style to zucchini; both green and yellow. 

Once upon a time on a warm summer's day in the country, I had zucchini. AGAIN.
Another dilemma of what to do with this ubiquitous kinda bland veg. And so, the idea of creating a dish that would be fresh and cool given the heat of the day sparked the idea for carpaccio.  Slice it thin.  No need to cook it.  Add a zingy sauce and call it day.  

That is how this dish came to be. Out of sheer not wanting to turn on the stove or oven or eat anything hot.   I don't need to bore you with any more adjectives, adverbs or other fancy descriptions.  This is a simple once upon a time story, with a happy ending.  Now, down to the 'how to'.

Ingredients

1  zucchini, thinly sliced approx. 2 c
2 small yellow squash, thinly sliced approx. 2 c
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c white wine vinegar
salt

 

Dressing
1-2 T honey (depending on your taste)
1/3 c fresh lime juice
1/3 c fresh lemon juice
1 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 shallots. minced
1.5 T mint, finely chopped
1.5 T basil, chopped
1+ tsp salt / 1/4 t pepper to taste

Instructions

1. First things first.  Thinly slice the red onions so they have time to pickle. I use a mandolin for this so I can cut them quickly, evenly and thinly. Next, combine the red and white vinegar with salt and submerge the onions.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the zucchini and dressing.

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2. Thinly slice both the zucchini and yellow squash using a mandolin.  Unless you have a sushi master skill of using a knife, the only real way to get these thin enough, and consistent, is to use a mandolin.  Sorry, sometimes it's just that way. I like to make sure that I am slicing them so they are round, not oval.  I just groove off the overall visual look. But go ahead and slice as you like, just as long as they are thin. Then begin to layer them.  Again, I like order and visual appeal. So my aesthetic is one color for each row in a circular fashion.  I overlap slightly as I go to create a wheel of green and yellow swirls. But lay them down in whatever fashion suits your style.

 Round and round we go. Layer anyway you like. I like circles.

Round and round we go. Layer anyway you like. I like circles.

 It looks neat and visually appealing... and mesmerizing.

It looks neat and visually appealing... and mesmerizing.

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3. Once that is done, make the marinade/dressing.  Combine the lemon and lime juices, vinegar with honey, shallots, mint and basil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the entire dish and allow the dressing to settle in for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour to absorb and "cook" the zucchini.  Drain and add the pickled onion in the center.

 The first couple of times I made this dish I used regular basil.  This time around I had purple basil, so that's what I used.

The first couple of times I made this dish I used regular basil.  This time around I had purple basil, so that's what I used.

 Sometimes I start my circles with yellow squash, then zucchini.  Other times the versus.  I know, I live dangerously.

Sometimes I start my circles with yellow squash, then zucchini.  Other times the versus.  I know, I live dangerously.

 The purple basil adds another color pop.

The purple basil adds another color pop.

Warning, this dish is tart and tangy. (Use more honey to balance the flavor to your palate. I like it tangy.)
Perfect for the summer.
Perfect for BBQ meats.
Perfect solution to not sweating over a stove. 
Another zucchini dilemma solved. 
Another happy ending.