Monthly Archives: February 2013

Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon

Seasoned to Taste - Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon and Mushrooms

Israeli couscous is like a better orzo – pearls of chewy starch that mix deliciously with both rich and light flavors – from citrus and herbs to bacon, mushrooms and leeks.

I have to admit that the only recipe I used was the liquid-to-couscous measurements on the back of the package, adding in my cooked mushrooms, bacon and onion at the end. What I’ve written below is my best recollection – please adjust to your pleasing.

And of course, truffle oil is optional. I received some as a birthday gift, so I’ve been drizzling it on everything. A simple olive oil or infused oil would be tasty, too. Just a little drizzle to make the couscous sparkle when serving.

Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon

Ingredients:

  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 package or about 2 c. Israeli couscous
  • 4 c. chicken stock
  • 4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 2 c. sliced mushrooms (I usually use cremini or shiitake)
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Truffle oil, to taste, or olive oil

In medium sauce pan, heat 2 T olive oil over medium, then add shallot. When it starts to brown, add couscous and stir to coat in oil. When couscous begins to toast, 2-3 min, add chicken stock and pinch salt and pepper. Stir, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer for 10-12 min, until water is absorbed and couscous is tender but not mushy.

Meanwhile, heat medium skillet over medium-high and saute bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to paper towels to drain and add sliced mushrooms to bacon fat in skillet. Saute until nicely browned (they will release a lot of moisture), 7-8 min.

When couscous is done, fluff it with a fork, then add mushrooms, bacon, scallions and salt/pepper to taste. Transfer to serving platter and drizzle with truffle oil.

Seasoned to Taste - Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon and Mushrooms

Yum! It’s almost hearty enough for it’s own meal and the leftovers were my lunch the following day.

To actually make this a meal, I would serve the couscous over a bed of your favorite greens and place a soft-cooked egg on top, so you can break the yolk and let it spill over, creating a creamy sauce. Oh man, that sounds good!

When I made this, it was a side dish for some grilled sausages on toasted baguette with a chimichurri sauce:

Seasoned to Taste - Truffled Israeli Couscous with Bacon and Mushrooms

What a delightful way to spend a weekend day – just cooking and eating with friends who live within walking distance. I can’t tell you how important it is to live in a close-knit neighborhood, for these kind of spontaneous lunch or dinner parties.

Enjoy, friends, xoxo

Pistachio Pesto

Seasoned to Taste - Pistachio Pesto

What to do when you have a Costco-sized bag of toasted pistachio nuts…you sprinkle them on salads, chop to coat fish or meat, and you make pesto.

Normally, I wouldn’t consider pesto without basil. It just seems wrong, like using walnuts instead of pine nuts. But basil isn’t exactly in season during the winter, so I took a chance with what I had on hand: parsley, Parmesan, garlic and tons of pistachios. What developed was a unique combination of flavors that I can’t wait to make again.

Without something strongly floral like basil, you have to rely on the nuts to provide the bulk of the pesto, which produces a thicker sauce than you might be used to. Pistachios (the roasted kind) are also drier, less fatty, so aren’t quite as creamy when pureed.

I love the dark greenish-brownish hue the pesto takes on …

Easy Pistachio Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. roasted shelled pistachio nuts (mine were salted)
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil

In food processor, pulse the nuts, cheese, garlic and parsley. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil until you reach your desired consistency – probably 1/3 – 1/2 c. for me. Taste for seasonings and add salt and pepper. If you used salted nuts, you won’t need as much salt.

Seasoned to Taste - Pistachio Pesto

This will probably keep a couple weeks in the fridge, but I wouldn’t know because mine didn’t last that long!

I immediately used my batch with some angel hair pasta and fresh tomatoes, which was a delicious and light dinner. Later, I used the leftover pesto in many ways: stirred into couscous, spread onto a sandwich and mixed with ricotta for an upcoming lasagna this week.

Here’s a crude snapshot of my pistachio pesto pasta leftovers, ready to go to work:

Seasoned to Taste - Pistachio Pesto

Enjoy, friends!

Almond Butter with Sea Salt

Seasoned to Taste - Almond Butter with Sea Salt

My mom got me this awesome cookbook from America’s Test Kitchens –  the DIY Cookbook, showing you how to make everything from your own Sriracha to Worcestershire sauce to candied ginger. I will soon be trying the bacon jam recipe, but before that I went for the almond butter, because I had been wanting to try making its sibling, peanut butter.

For something so expensive in the grocery store, the two-ingredient, two-step recipe seemed unbelievable. I guess I just assumed you added oil or sugar or SOMETHING else to get that great spreadable consistency.

On the contrary, all you need is nuts and salt, and the process of grinding the almonds  pulls all those rich oils out and blends the pieces into a smooth butter that sticks to the roof of your mouth. I added more salt than the recipe’s 1 teaspoon, because I liked the flakes of sea salt breaking through the rich butter. Bigger salt crystals always hit your tongue after a few chews, so they don’t overpower.

I have tested this recipe once, but feel it will be emerging again around the holidays – it’s a wonderful hostess gift or present, as it stores well and will impress your friends. I have consumed and given enough away that I already wish I had made a double batch.

Almond Butter with Sea Salt

Ingredients (makes 2 c.):

  • 4 c. almonds, whole
  • sea salt

Heat oven to 375. Spread almonds evenly on baking sheet and roast on middle rack until slightly darkened, 10-12 min. Let cool until just warm, 20 min.

Add almonds to food processor and blend, scraping down sides to help it along, about 7-10 min. total. Puree until the oils release and it becomes the consistency of peanut butter. Add 1 tsp salt and process. Taste for seasonings. Add more salt if you prefer.

I was concerned multiple times that mine was not coming together – you feel like you are grinding and grinding and it’s just a mess of crumbs. So I kept mixing the puree from the bottom to the top to distribute the pieces, and processed until finally, it started to become smooth. And became this:

Seasoned to Taste - Almond Butter with Sea Salt

Transfer to jars with tight lids. The almond butter can be stored in fridge for up to 2 months.

I have been snacking on crisp Gala apples dipped in my almond butter – just how I used to eat peanut butter as a child. It’s wonderful and such a healthy, filling snack for work.

Seasoned to Taste - Almond Butter with Sea Salt

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Seasoned to Taste - Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Grant and I are spending the day “de-cluttering” – cleaning out closets, making trips to the dump and painting the stairwell. While it is sunny and mild in our neck of North Carolina today, I hear our friends to the north are getting quite the snow storm that is keeping folks homebound.

Thick soups are perfect for those surprise snowy days, when all you want to hear is the hiss of your radiator and blips of soup bubbles working on the stove. I made this soup in an effort to use some leftover smoked Virginia ham … and try out the new immersion blender that my mom gave me! So excited. And it was splendid.

This recipe is from Cooking Light, but I added the meat – seems wrong to have split pea soup without some sort of ham. While I didn’t use a ham hock as is traditional, I think the Virginia ham offered a comparable flavor with plenty of meat (something a ham hock lacks).

I have reduced the amount of rosemary because I found it overpowering – add more if you love it.

Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 c. dried split peas
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 c. chopped onion (one large, I used sweet onion)
  • 1 c. diced carrot
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 T minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 T soy sauce (for salt)
  • 4 c. water or chicken stock
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1 pound diced smoked ham (or substitute)

Wash beans. Cover with water and set aside.

Heat 1 tsp oil in Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add onion, carrot and bay leaf, saute 5 min. Add garlic, rosemary, paprika and pepper, stirring, and cook 3 min. Add tomato paste and soy sauce; cook until liquid evaporates, scraping bottom of the pan to deglaze.

Drain peas. Add peas to Dutch oven, along with water/stock. Bring to a boil, adding another cup of water if needed to thin it. Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer 1 hour, stirring often. Discard bay leaf. Using a food processor or immersion blender, blend soup until pureed to your desired consistency – I didn’t want baby food.

Return Dutch oven to medium heat and add ham to warm through. Taste for seasonings.

To serve, spoon soup into big bowls and finish with a grating of Parm cheese and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Seasoned to Taste - Split Pea Soup with Virginia Ham

Goes very well with crusty bread and a simple oil-vinegar salad.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo

Chicken with Almond-Garlic Saffron Sauce

Seasoned to Taste - Chicken with Saffron Almond Sauce

Saffron is an unusual flavor that I’m not totally sure about. On one hand, I associate it with delicious Spanish dishes like paella, but on the other hand, it has a strange essence. The turmeric color it releases is beautiful, but that earthy flavor easily overwhelms my palette, so I have to be careful how I use it.

This Spanish-inspired dish uses saffron along with a bunch of garlic and almonds to create a rich, creamy sauce served with chicken. It is quite similar to a curry, so I am calling it Spanish Chicken Curry. The almonds puree with fresh bread crumbs to thicken the sauce without the aid of dairy products. I love that trick.

While I only used a small pinch of saffron threads (get these at Trader Joe’s – way cheaper!), I still found the flavor a bit strong. Grant loved it and ate all the leftovers, so perhaps the problem lies with my pickiness. My senses have been much more acute lately…

I made this with an easy rice side – simply cooking a little tomato in oil in your rice pot, then stirring in the uncooked rice and proceeding as normal. The tomato broke down into a nice light-red tinge gently coating the rice, providing a sweet bed for my chicken and sauce.

This recipe has a few steps, but the sauce can be made in advance and simply added in where the recipe calls for it. Note that I used boneless skinless chicken because it’s just so much easier to eat!

Adapted from Bon Appeit:

Chicken with Almond-Garlic Saffron Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch cubes crustless white bread
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup dry Sherry or white wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 chicken legs (I used 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method:

  • Heat 3 Tbsp. olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add almonds and stir until golden brown, about 3 minutes; transfer to paper towels. Place 1/3 cup almonds in a blender or food processor. Set aside remaining almonds for garnish.
  • Add bread cubes and garlic to same pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until bread is golden brown and crisp, 4–5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to blender. Add broth, wine, 1/2 tsp. pepper, saffron, and a large pinch of salt; process until almost smooth. Set aside.
  • Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add to pot and cook, turning down heat if needed to prevent burning, until chicken is golden brown on all sides, about 12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  • Add onion to pot; cook, stirring often, until onion is caramelized around edges, about 6 minutes. Add sauce and chicken to pot, pushing down chicken to submerge. Bring sauce to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer until chicken is just cooked through, approx. 10 minutes for me, but depends on the thickness of your chicken. Bone-in chicken will take 20 min. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Divide chicken and sauce among bowls. Garnish each serving with reserved almonds and chopped parsley.

Seasoned to Taste - Chicken with Almond Saffron Sauce

Enjoy, friends! xoxo