5 Ingredient Toasted Pearl Couscous

A tasty dish filled with veggies and done in 30 minutes using a whole grain that looks like little pearls. So cute.

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Sorry for those of you who received the teaser email last night with an incomplete post.  My butterfingers hit “Publish” instead of “Save”  and emails automatically went out (a bloggers nightmare) Ahh!  

Today I’m sharing a recipe using pearl couscous.  If you don’t know what this is, it is also known as Israeli couscous and are small balls of wheat or semolina flour.   They have a slightly chewy texture – and when toasted, like I do for this dish, they have a subtle nutty flavor.  It’s a nice alternative to rice or pasta.  It can be found near the rice in most grocery stores.  Or if you’re lucky, you can buy it from the bulk bins.  This dish can be used as a side dish or a light main dish (feel free to toss in beans or your protein of your choice) – perfect for all you Meatless Monday folks!

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Grape Tomatoes were on sale last week. $0.88 a pint!! That’s CRAZY! So, naturally, I went crazy and bought 4 pints of grape tomatoes. After inhaling two pints raw, I wanted to enjoy the others cooked. My favorite way to cook grape tomatoes is to roast them. It makes them even sweeter, and doesn’t require you to do much to them. I just plop some chopped garlic in the baking dish, sprinkle some olive oil, salt and pepper and bake at 425 for 20-30 minutes and TADA!  EVEN SWEETER grape tomatoes. Yum.  This is also a great way to use grape tomatoes that are starting to wrinkle and not look so “salad fresh”.

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While your grape tomatoes are roasting, you can toast and cook the couscous.  Toasting really brings out a nutty flavor and is a small extra step that is totally worth it.  To toast the pearls, simply saute them with olive oil in a saucepan on low-medium heat, while stirring for about 5-10 minutes until the couscous is lightly browned. Then add your liquid and frozen vegetable of choice ( I threw in some frozen spinach) and simmer for 10 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Add the roasted grape tomatoes and their juices to the cooked cousous. Then add a little water to the baking dish to deglaze it (which will get all the roasty deliciousness out) and add it to the cooked couscous and dinner’s ready!

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In 30 minutes and 5 ingredients (not including olive oil and salt pepper) you have a delicious vegetable filled side dish that is nutty and full of grape tomato sweetness.

 

Recipe: 5 Ingredient Toasted Pearl Couscous 20140519-065127.jpg

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4 as a side dish, 2 as a light main dish (this recipe can be easily doubled, tripled, quadrupled…)

Ingredients:

  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced or roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoon of olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup Pearl Couscous (Israeli Couscous)
  • 1 1/4 cup of chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1 cup of frozen chopped spinach (or frozen veggie of your choice)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • Mozzarella or Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  In a oven safe baking dish, toss grape tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until tomatoes start to caramelize.
  2. Add the remaining oil to a medium saucepan.  Over low to medium heat, add the couscous and cook, stirring for about 5-10 minutes, until light golden brown.  Add the broth and frozen spinach and bring to a boil.  Immediately, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add cooked grape tomatoes plus their juices to the cooked couscous. You may remove the garlic or smash up and add to the couscous (depending on how much garlic flavor you like) De-glaze the baking dish with a tablespoon or 2 of water and add to the couscous. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with a sprinkle of cheese.

* Garbanzo or cannellini beans go really well with this dish if you are looking to serve as a main dish and want some extra protein. Just toss in after the couscous is done cooking.

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Want more quick veggie dishes? Click on the Vegetarian Link on the top menu or try one of my favorites below!

Vegetarian Orzo Parsley Salad Orzo Parsley Salad.jpgSpicy Avocado Egg SaladSpicy Avocado Egg Salad.jpgSpanish Tortilla with Baby Spinach and Red Bell PepperSpanish Tortilla.jpg

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Easy Thai Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Happy New Year! Time to celebrate with some fancy soup!

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Although this may look super fancy, this is hands down the most flavorful and easiest soup I have ever made. And by the end of this post, I am going to convince you of that.  It is creamy, spicy and slightly sweet and you even get to top it with a little toasted coconut.  Fancy.  If you love Thai flavors, you will LOVE this soup.  Coconut milk makes the soup creamy, butternut squash makes it healthy to eat all that coconut milk AND red Thai curry paste makes it spicy! Add a little apple for some sweetness and you have THE BEST SOUP.  I even made it as a Christmas present for my Aunts upon request!

20131223-092437.jpgI know there are tons of butternut squash soup recipes out there. So, you’re probably wondering: “what makes this soup so damn special?”   Well, my recipe calls for ingredients that most people usually have.  It only requires 1 fancy-ish ingredient – Red Thai Curry paste – and this can be kept in your fridge for a long time. So you buy it once and can use it throughout the year.  The only additional fresh ingredients (besides the squash) you need you probably already have in your kitchen: onion, garlic and apple.  Everything else keeps, so you can make this soup whenever you buy a butternut squash!

What is the secret to the super flavor in this easy soup?  Freshly roasted butternut squash!

Before I started making this soup last year, I was TERRIFIED of roasting my own squash.  Those big, hunky vegetables look so intimidating in the grocery store, don’t they?  FEAR NOT my friend.  I am here to tell you – YOU CAN DO IT!

And I’m showing you exactly how.

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Steps for roasting your butternut squash. 1. Slice open. 2. scoop out seeds 3.Brush oil and place cut side down on baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (for easy cleanup). The 4th photo is what the squash looks like when it is done roasting!

Slice the butternut squash in half, lengthwise on a cutting board (carefully!).  I usually start to cut at the fat end, since it is easier to cut through the part where the seeds are. Once halved, scoop out the seeds and save them for later!  (You can roast the seeds and salt them -they are delicious!) After your squash is cleaned out, brush a tablespoon of oil (canola, olive, or vegetable – whatever) on the flesh of each half and place flesh side down on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet (for easy cleanup!). Bake at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes.  There.  Done.  That’s roasting your own squash.  Easy, right? You can do this days in advance and then making the soup will only take 20 minutes!

If you are roasting the squash and making the soup the same day, then while the squash is roasting, get started on the rest of the soup.  Add some oil, garlic, onion and peeled and chopped apple to the pot. Saute for a few minutes then add the ginger and the red curry paste. Saute for a few minutes  Then add the liquids and the roasted squash – simmer for at least 10 minutes, puree with an immersion blender or blend in batches and done!

20131223-092408.jpgYUM! Sweet, Savory, Coconut-y goodness!

20131223-092420.jpgWarms you and fills you up!

20131223-092430.jpgGo make some right now!!!

20131223-092514.jpgRecipe: Easy Thai Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

Makes about 10 cups (Ten 8oz servings)

Squash roasting time: 45 minutes

Prep time: 10 minutes

Soup cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 tablespoons of oil, divided (olive, vegetable, or canola)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small apple, peeled and chopped (I used Macintosh but any soft, sweet apple will do.  Don’t use granny smith – too tart)
  • 2 teaspoons of ground ginger (or 1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of Thai red curry paste (more or less depending on your spice preference)
  • 32oz chicken broth (or vegetable broth – to make it vegan/vegetarian)
  • 1 can (14-ounce) coconut milk (I usually use light coconut milk)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Toasted sweetened shredded coconut, for serving – optional (but highly recommended!)

Instructions:

  • Roast the Butternut Squash (This can be done days in advance)                            Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Halve squash lengthwise and scrape out all the seeds and stringy stuff (Save seeds for roasting later).  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, brush the cut flesh with about 1 tablespoon of oil, and place flesh side down on foil. Roast squash until it is very soft – depending on the size about 45 minutes to an hour.  Allow Squash to cool for about 10 minutes and then scoop flesh out of the peel into a bowl.  Use immediately in soup, or place into a sealed container and refrigerate for about a week or freeze up to 2 months.
  • Make the Soup. (While the squash is roasting-if doing this in one day)                    In a large pot, add the remaining tablespoon of oil, onion, garlic and peeled apple and sauté on medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until onions are soft.  Add Thai red curry paste and ginger and stir briskly for about 30 seconds.  Next add the broth, coconut milk and the roasted squash and simmer for at least 10 minutes.  If I have the time I like to simmer for 30 minutes and even more if I get busy and forget about it. 

Purée soup with an immersion blender (or in batches in a blender or food processor) – and serve!

For serving: Optional (but highly recommended) — Top soup with toasted sweetened shredded coconut (toast shredded coconut on a baking sheet in oven at 400F for 2 minutes (be sure to watch so it doesn’t burn!) Or toast the shredded coconut it in your microwave!

This soup makes great leftovers!  It tastes even better the next day.  Keep leftover soup in a sealed container in the fridge for a week(ish).

Seriously, go make some right now!!

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Vegetarian Orzo Parsley Salad

20130507-143829.jpgMay is National Salad Month! That’s right, salad gets a whole month to itself to celebrate how awesome it is.  Mother’s Day is also coming up and it’s about time I start sharing stories about the inspiration for all my culinary adventures and the person who taught me how to cook: my mom. Well, I’m kicking off National Salad Month with a non-traditional salad: Vegetarian Orzo Parsley Salad.  Although this recipe is not one that my mom has shared with me, my mom loves fresh parsley, so I think she would like this salad too. Parsley is a significant part of this dish, and whenever I smell fresh parsley, it reminds me of times in the kitchen with mom, making pasta sauce for Sunday “dinner”.  Being Italian, this dinner would take place at 2pm.  If you’re not Italian, this time probably sounds strange.  If you are Italian, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Of COURSE you eat dinner at 2pm on Sundays. Dinner also consisted of pasta and 5ish other courses. It was quite an event.  I miss it.  Being the little piglet that I was growing up, I LOVED Sundays.

20130507-144025.jpgOk.  Back to the superstar: Parsley.  One of my jobs as a little kitchen helper was to pluck the leaves off the parsley bunch so my mom could put it in the chopper to add to the red sauce (called gravy in our family).  My mom always liked to put extra parsley on her pasta.  She also adds fresh parsley to meatballs, chicken soup, stuffing for peppers and probably a ton of other things that I never realized.  So, Happy Mother’s Day Mom!  Here’s another recipe you can load up with parsley!

20130507-144127.jpgThis salad screams Spring to me.  Fresh parsley gives the salad a bright taste, that is crisp and refreshing.  It makes a great side dish to grilled burgers, steak or chicken.  It is also good on its own, and you can add some cannellini beans to it to spike it with a little protein if you want it as a main meal. What is so great about this salad??   It’s versatility.  This salad is delicious hot OR cold.  Another bonus: The Baby Bella mushrooms used in this dish are so flavorful and meaty, you will hardly notice there is no meat in this salad. Also, just like all of my recipes, this dish is easy to make and takes the amount of time it takes to boil pasta.  So what are you waiting for?!! Make some orzo salad!

20130507-143846.jpgThose are some good lookin’ mushrooms.  I know a lot of people don’t like mushrooms, but really, I beg you to try baby bella mushrooms.  Baby bella mushrooms, also known as cimini, are just young portobella mushrooms. They have a subtle taste and a meaty texture.  Baby bella mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, B vitamins and potassium.

Alright, enough with the nutritional lecture.  Let’s make some Orzo Salad!

Dice up some onion and garlic and place in a large pan on medium heat and saute with some olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to your onions/garlic.

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Slice up the mushrooms and add them to the sizzling onions and garlic in the pan.  Cook mushrooms with onions and garlic for about 7-10 minutes.  Onions should be soft and translucent.

20130507-143900.jpgMake sure you use a large enough pan.  Your mushrooms need space! Don’t crowd the mushrooms.  If you like a little kick to your salad, put in a touch of crushed red pepper flakes to the mushrooms.   While your mushrooms are cooking down, cook your orzo pasta in salty water.  I had some extra broccoli in the house, so I added this to just warm up in the pan with the mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes. ***I LOVE my cast iron pan.  I cook almost EVERYTHING in this pan and it only cost me about $20 at a big box store (Kmart/target/walmart)  It is a an essential cooking tool in my kitchen.

20130507-144036.jpgNext, prep that parsley! I usually buy flat leaf parsley, but you can use curly parsley if you like. Grab a really good handful of the washed leaves and give them a good rough chop, and set aside. The dish’s superstar is now ready! When the orzo is cooked al dente, (or how you like your pasta – just don’t make it mushy) drain the pasta, and save about 1/4 cup of the cooking water. DO NOT RINSE the orzo.  You want the starch to stay on the pasta.  Then place orzo in the pan with the cooking mushrooms and toss together.  You could also instead add the veggies to the orzo pot, if doing this or if you are not tossing the orzo directly with the veggies, drizzle a little olive oil over the orzo to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

20130507-143942.jpgAfter the pasta and veggies are well mixed, toss in all the delicious parsley and mix some more.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  If your salad is a little dry, you can add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water.

I love eating my orzo salad this way.  The best thing about orzo, is that it’s shape, lends itself to staying moist and not needing a sauce, but if you’re a person who can’t eat a salad without a dressing on top – you can drizzle a little garlic oil and a splash of lemon juice on top.  See below for my super easy garlic oil recipe!

Now DIG IN and ENJOY!

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Mmmm look at that veggie to pasta ratio!  Lots of veggies in there!

20130507-144050.jpgSo easy, so fast, so fresh!  A perfect spring dish!

Recipe: Vegetarian Orzo Parsley Salad  20130507-144140.jpg

Servings: 2

Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil (this is an estimate, enough to just coat your pan)
  • ¼ cup of onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, sliced
  • ¼ cup of broccoli, chopped (optional – you can substitute in almost any vegetable here – tomato, roasted asparagus, red bell pepper)
  • ½ cup of uncooked orzo, cook in salty water per instructions on box
  • ½ bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped (about a large handful)

Instructions:

  1. In a medium pot, boil salty water for orzo*
  2. Coat a large pan (I use a cast iron pan) with olive oil and warm on medium heat.  As the pan is still warming, add onions and garlic.  Cook for about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sliced mushrooms to the same pan, and cook for about 7 minutes, until onions are translucent and mushrooms are soft.  Add a pinch of salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to onions/garlic and mushrooms as they are cooking
  4. Add the broccoli and cook just until warm, about 2 minutes.  You want your broccoli to add some crunch
  5. While your veggies are cooking, add orzo to boiling, salty water (or chicken stock) and cook per instructions on your pasta box (about 10 minutes)
  6. Drain orzo and reserve ~ 1/4 cup of cooking water – DO NOT rinse your pasta, you will lose the moistness,
  7. Immediately toss the orzo and veggies together –if needed, add a little pasta water to moisten it up.  Add in parsley and mix until combined. **
  8. Add some salt and pepper to taste

ENJOY!

* I stress the salty water here because you are not putting a sauce on the orzo, thus, the only time you have to flavor the pasta at all is during the cooking process in the water.  You can also cook your orzo in chicken stock.  That will give the pasta a very good flavor.

** If not tossing immediately with the veggies, drizzle a little olive oil on the orzo after draining and stir to prevent orzo from clumping.  You can also just add a little pasta water to moisten up.

Recipe Source: Deliciousinadash.com

Bonus Recipe!

Easy Quick Garlic Oil

Adapted from Ina Garten

  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  1. In a small saucepan, slowly warm up the oil to a simmer with the garlic cloves
  2. Reduce heat to low and cook for 5-10 minutes – until garlic is lightly browned – careful, so it does not burn
  3. Remove from heat and let cool
  4. Remove garlic and save for later (To spread on bread)
  5. Drizzle oil over anything!

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