Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cranberry and Spinach Couscous

Here's another recipe from the dinner party I had over a year ago. This recipe uses Israeli couscous (also known as pearl couscous). It's larger in size than regular couscous. It takes only a little bit longer to cook, and is a nice change from regular couscous or rice.

This recipe can be prepped ahead of time. It only takes ten minutes to cook, and can be thrown together very quickly if you have all of it's individual parts prepared. You'll notice all my pictures are of ingredients in storage containers - I put the onions and cranberries in one container, the "sauce" ingredients in another container, and the spinach in a third container so I could easily stir in the necessary ingredients at the right time.

Cranberry and Spinach Couscous
Serves 4

1 onion, chopped finely (I just food-process the heck out of it...easier)
1 tsp vegetable oil
¼ cup dried cranberries, largest pieces chopped
1 cup pearl/Israeli couscous
1 1/3 cup chicken stock (of course you could make it vegetarian by using vegetable stock!)
2 Tbsp dried porcini mushrooms, finely chopped
1½ tsp grainy mustard
juice of 1 lime
½ cup chopped fresh spinach

In a medium, deep skillet with a lid, saute the chopped onion in the vegetable oil. Add the dried cranberries, and allow the mixture to simmer uncovered until the onions are soft and are beginning to brown.

Stir in the couscous, stock, mushrooms, mustard, and lime juice. Cover and simmer on low heat until couscous is tender, about 10 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

Stir in chopped spinach and heat through. Serve immediately.

The finished product, served with Moroccan Chicken!

Roasted Root Vegetables

Holy it's been nearly a year since I last blogged! As promised, I will post the rest of the recipes from my dinner party of eleven months prior...

One of my favorite side dishes to make is a medley of roasted veggies. It's so simple and easy because it just has five basic ingredients - veggies, salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic - and you can throw it in the oven and largely ignore it for about 50 minutes.

There's really no set recipe to follow either, just chop up what you have on hand and throw it all together. I always try to include carrots and small cherry/grape tomatoes to bring some color to the mix.

Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves 6, but is easily modified...keep reading on

Basically you want a generous handful (plus a little extra) of chopped fresh veggies for each person. (Sorry, frozen just doesn't work too well here.) So, for six people I'd use:

a handful of cherry tomatoes
some cut asparagus (discard tough ends)
a generous handful of baby carrots
1 large parsnip (peeled & chopped to match the size of the carrots)
a generous handful of cut broccoli florets
a cut onion (or use peeled pearl onions...especially yummy!)
four large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
and something fun like a chopped-up kohlrabi or a turnip (peel and chop as with the parsnip).

You'll also need:
Olive oil
Coarse Salt
Black Pepper

Add additional vegetables or increase quantities if you need more or want leftovers. Need some ideas on what to add? Try chunks of zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, snow peas, potatoes, or cauliflower florets.

Cut all your vegetables to roughly match the size and shape of your carrot pieces.

As you're working, divide them into two categories: ones that cook quickly and ones that take more time to roast. I usually put them into a gallon-sized zip-lock baggie because they're easy to manipulate without leaking.

Quicker cooking vegetables include cherry tomatoes, asparagus (unless the stalks are really thick), zucchini, green beans, or snow peas.

Vegetables that will take more time to roast include thicker pieces of asparagus, carrots, parsnips, broccoli, onions, kohlrabi, turnips, butternut squash, potatoes, or cauliflower. Put the chopped garlic in with this group too.

Pour a generous amount of olive oil over each bag of cut veggies. I usually use approximately 1/3 cup of oil for about six servings (but I will admit that I have never measured it...I just eyeball use whatever you think you need!). Seal up the baggies and turn them over until every piece is coated in oil. The recipe may be prepared ahead up to this point.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. You'll need a large roasting pan - big enough to eventually accommodate all the veggies laid out in a single layer.

Spread only the slower-cooking chopped veggies in a single layer in the pan. Generously grind black pepper over the veggies. Sprinkle a generous pinch of coarse salt over the veggies. Give it all a stir to evenly distribute each type of vegetable, then spread things out so there's as little overlap as possible.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Give the veggies a stir, then return them to the oven for another 15 minutes more.

After they've been roasting for a total of 30 minutes, stir in the quicker-cooking vegetables, give it another pinch of salt, and spread the veggies back out in the pan. Return them to the oven for 20 more minutes.

At the end of the baking time, taste the vegetables and add additional salt if necessary.

Optional: If I have it on hand, I stir in a little grated Parmesan cheese and garnish it with a little chopped Italian parsley.