Archive for the 'couscous' Category

21
Jul
12

tagine, badminton, and Bologna.

Greetings from foggy London town, where the Summer is scarce and the condensation oh so prevalent. It’s been just over two months since I relocated from NYC to the Land o’ Scones (official name), and it seems as though I timed my arrival to coincide with sheets of rain and blankets of clouds (going with a bed theme here..just go with it). I can assure you I didn’t. Luckily, the absence of Sun is prolonging my youth! If I can’t find the Sun, then I’m guessing it can’t find my wrinkles. Right?! That’s pure logic.

I’ve been indoors lately far more than my former self dared, so it’s given me ample time to cook and decorate. I’m almost positive I’m turning full-on adult. Proof: today, I bought a small bunch of orange daisies! Who does that?! Adults. That’s who.

While I’ve been getting all domestic, I’ve also been cooking my face off. A few weeks ago, I made a Weight Watchers recipe of Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Almonds:

tagine

Ingredients:

4 halves apricots, dried
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c chicken broth, fat free
1 tbsp flour, white
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
1/4 c almonds, whole, blanched
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 c whole wheat couscous, cooked

Start by bringing apricots and chicken broth to a simmer in a small saucepan, and then set aside. Coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and cook over high heat. Toss chicken in the flour and saute about 5 minutes, and then stir in onion. Reduce to medium low and cook 10 minutes more. Stir in cinnamon and honey. Stir in apricots, broth and almonds, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Serve over couscous.

Weight Watchers recipes sometimes come out a little lacking in flavor, and this turned out to be no exception. I always feel like I need to add something citrus-y (i.e. lemons) or yogurt-y (i.e. Greek) or oily (i.e. extra virgin olive) on top. This time, I added some extra virgin olive oil for flavor. This turned out to be the right call, although I still feel the recipe needed more. Next time I’d maybe add olives or capers to give it some complexity or something.

A few nights later, I made another Weight Watchers recipe of Mushroom Barley Burgers. I know – I’m a glutton for bland punishment. This one was actually the exception, though. It was all kinds of delicious:

Ingredients:

1/2 c uncooked barley
2 sprays cooking spray
1 1/2 lb mushrooms, portabella caps, sliced
1 egg
1 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c sour cream, fat free
1 tbsp horseradish sauce

The barley takes a lifetime to make, so I actually made it the night before. You bring it to a boil with 2 1/4 cups of water in a saucepan, reduce to low and simmer, covered for 40 minutes. That’s way too long for me post-work, since I’m always thisclose to gnawing a hand off while I cook, so I made the barley the night before.

Coat a skillet with cooking spray and add mushrooms over medium-high heat. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until tender and transfer to a bowl. Mix together with the barley, egg, sage, salt and pepper and mash with a fork. This recipe also gave the option of blending with a food processor, but I’ve yet to buy one since I keep de-prioritizing it. Never-you-mind, though — forking is great for the biceps.

pasta bolognese

Once the mixture was all decently combined, I formed it into about 6 patties. The recipe said I’d find 4, but for some reason I found 2 extras! Win. I put them on a plate, covered them with aluminum foil, and refrigerated for 20 minutes.I then watched some Friends. Brits looove Friends.

I took the patties from the refrigerator and placed them under the broiler for about 5 minutes per side. I then mixed together the sour cream and horseradish in a bowl. You serve the burgers with the horseradish sauce on top. Delicious. I had never before taken an interest in horseradish, but this recipe converted me. I’m, like, dying for Passover 2013.

All this cooking and domesticating has driven me further and further from the gym, and I’ve neglected to even join a proper gym since I’ve moved. Instead, I’ve taken to the iPad workouts for yoga and pilates. I’m pretty into it, since the workouts are as short as 10 minutes yet there are enough to where you can get a full hour-long sesh just by combining a few. I’ve converted to primarily stretch workouts, and when I want to get my cardio on I’ve been going to dance classes. I’m kind of in love with this new philosophy, especially since I can take it with me when I travel and work it around my schedule.

On top of the yoga, pilates and dance, I joined a slightly ghetto gym for its courts and plethora of pilates classes. I was just introduced to badminton on said courts, and I just may have found my sport. I loved every minute of our 45 minute “game,” and even amongst the government-subsidized rafters I felt just like Maid Marion. And that feeling is just beautiful.

I went to Bologna last weekend (hence the Italian-dubbed Robin Hood clip, for those who clicked), which marked my grand return to Italy since I studied abroad in Rome in 2005. During the trip, I ate pappardelle bolognese (pictured left), spinach and mascarpone gnocchi, ricotta flavored gelato (unreal), chocolate flavored gelato (more real, but still bene) nutella crepes, and proscuitto and melon (pictured below). I’m pretty sure there will be more travels and fitting that much rich and delicious food into my belly, so I’m going to continue with the yoga and pilates and weekly dance and badminton. Cheers!

proscuitto e melone

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25
Jul
10

phyllo dough pizza, fruity/nutty couscous

There are few things in life that terrify me – roaches, drowning, life without peanut butter – but phyllo dough may have just made that elite list. This is no slight to baklava; I’m a huge proponent of all honey soaked foods. In fact, I’ve been known to seek them out as late night drunk food in the hood. I guess my aversion stems from the fact that I finally tried to cook with phyllo dough, and I found it to be crazy laborious. It’s just so damn unreasonable. It’s this paper thin pastry that, in the grand scheme of things, takes up so little mass that it could be disregarded altogether. Then certain people (Greeks) find the most amazing uses for  it, so some decide to try their hand at it. Sooo I decided to make a vegetable pizza on phyllo dough.

First of all, phyllo dough requires you defrost it overnight in the refrigerator. Ordinarily I turn my nose up at such rigid defrosting rules and try and expedite everything in the microwave, but I actually listened to the phyllo and tossed it in the fridge before I went to work. As if that weren’t enough defrosting, the phyllo dough requires you leave it at room temperature for 2 hours before you want to use. Who has this kind of time? I gave it an hour at most. Every recipe I found online suggested I layer the dough with melted butter and cheese, but I decided to go with just butter. There would be cheese on the pizza, but what kind of a jackass needs it between every layer of crust? It’s pretty greedy.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough

Ingredients:

6-7 sheets phyllo dough

4 tbsp melted butter (1/2 stick)

1 zucchini, sliced

4 roma tomatoes, sliced

1/3 cup baby spinach

1/3 cup baby portabella mushrooms

fresh mozzarella, sliced

salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

I pre-heated the oven to 375 degrees, and went to work. The phyllo layering was, like, so strenuous. I mean, it required me to use the force of one pinkie muscle to pry the sheets apart, but I went in with the strength of all finger muscles at once. I ripped nearly half the sheets in the package just pulling them apart, and melted butter was involved all the while. I finally managed to layer about 7 sheets of pastry in a 15X10 in baking pan. I then went about laying the toppings in there, and misted the whole situation with olive oil. I baked for about 25 minutes, until my mozzarella was golden and the crust was starting to brown.

veggie pizza on phyllo dough

The end result was pretty delicious, despite all the labor. My roomie and her man each had a piece, and they reported back nothing but raves. Plus, the buttery dough smelled amazing while it was baking. I liked how light I felt after eating like three slices. Although it’s a bitch, I’d work with the phyllo again.

On the sweaty front, I’ve been trying to mix things up to keep myself engaged. After almost a decade of treadmills, ellipticals, and free weights, the gym becomes like an old ball and chain. Although there’s a heat wave in NY right now, a friend and I decided to run the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday.  It was SO lovely. At times I felt as if I were running through an oven, but it was such a fun and different way to go about the same old thing. We had iced coffee in Brooklyn Heights (frickin adorable), and then ran back towards Manhattan. Sweat in the eyes notwithstanding, I can’t wait to get at it again.

I’m still not entirely over this whole Middle Eastern thing, so I made couscous for dinner last night. I decided to go spicy-sweet (shocker) with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates:

from left: nectarines, apricots, dates, pecans

Ingredients:

Near East brand whole wheat couscous with toasted orzo

1 nectarine, chopped

2 apricots, chopped

4 dates, chopped

small handful pecans, chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Couscous is like the anti-phyllo, in that it requires like 30 seconds of your attention and then practically begs you to desert it for an episode of Arrested Development while it “does its thang,” if you will. Will you? That felt a little awkward…moving on. You bring two cups of water to a boil with a tablespoon of olive oil, and then add the contents of the couscous and toasted orzo. Bring back to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover the lid for about 15 minutes.

When the couscous was done, I added all the fruits and nuts along with cumin and cinnamon. I tossed everything together with a little olive oil, and then covered the lid for 5 minutes to allow everything to get familiar. A word about that Near East couscous. I’ve had many a-brands of couscous through the years, and I am really impressed with this one. The whole “toasted orzo” component was a nice touch, and I love what it did for the flavor. Big fan.

Um, YUM. I loved everything about this dish, and it took maybe half an ounce of effort. See below for the final product:

spiced whole wheat couscous with nectarines, apricots, pecans and dates




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