Salad

Israeli Couscous with Grilled Vegetables 

Israeli couscous is one of my favorite grains for a few reasons – it’s incredibly quick (coming together in less than 15 minutes), it has a unique, fun texture, and it’s almost impossible to mess up. For those of you that are like me and constantly fight for rice to be fluffy but not-to-wet and soggy, Israeli couscous might be here just in time to save the day. The special part about this grain is that it behaves more like pasta than anything else, so it will maintain its texture no matter how much water you add. Just be sure not to overcook it!

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In this dish, Israeli couscous is mixed with all of my favorite vegetables, cooked somewhat painstakingly over the grill until just tender. The key to easing the grill process here is to quarter the vegetables and cook them in large chunks, dicing them up for the salad later. This makes the vegetables easier to turn over, and drastically reduces the number of vegetables sacrificed to the hot coals.

This recipe is very flexible, and different ingredients can be swapped in and out depending on what you have on hand. Don’t like asparagus? Try eggplant instead. Like onions? Go ahead and throw them in. I encourage you to use your creative license here to make this dish your own!

Israeli Couscous with Grilled Vegetables (adapted from The Food Network)

Ingredients:

  • 2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise
  • 2 red peppers, quartered and seeded
  • 12-14 spears of asparagus
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • Couple of handfuls of basil, chopped

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Add a generous amount of salt and pepper, as this will be your main source of seasoning in the recipe.
  2. Cut all veggies according to the directions and add them to a large bowl. Pour half of the dressing on top. Let veggies marinade for ~15 minutes, if time allows.
  3. Remove veggies from the marinade and place carefully on the grill. Cook veggies until just tender, and remove from the grill. Cook cherry tomatoes in a grill pan designed for outdoor grilling (or use something similar, depending on what you have available).
  4. Make couscous: Add broth and water to a stockpot and bring to a boil. Pour in couscous and cover; let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until couscous appears tender but retains its texture.
  5. Once veggies have cooled, cut them into 1/2 inch chunks and toss into the couscous. Add remaining vinaigrette slowly, until salad is sufficiently dressed (based on your taste).
  6. Serve and enjoy!
Cake · Dessert · Fruit

Plum Torte

Despite being knee deep in October, plums are still bountiful at my local farmers market. This unexpected harvest inspired me to try the recipe below, shared long ago by the NY Times and now a mainstay in many home cook’s kitchens. This plum dessert makes a surprisingly great neighbor to your other fall favorites, pairing nicely with the season’s pumpkin breads and apple pies.

Plum Torte (3 of 4)

After trying this recipe, there’s no wonder why it continues to rage in popularity. The batter is practically effortless –  the entire recipe can be prepared in one bowl, should you decide to sift the ingredients directly into the batter. The preparation process takes less than 10 minutes, and the majority of your time will be spent salivating at the smells coming out from your oven.

While the original recipes calls for a springform pan, I didn’t have one of those in hand. Instead, I pulled out my handy non-stick cake pan, lined it with parchment paper, and gave it a good coating of butter. This method worked seamlessly, and my cake popped out without a crumb. If you don’t have a springform pan either – there’s no reason to write off this recipe!

Plums for the plum torte (1 of 1)

Plum Torte (1 of 4)

For the topping, lay the plums neatly on the top of the torte. They should be side by side, with little space in between. This will prevent the plums from moving around and sinking into the batter unevenly. There’s no need to push the plums in, though – they collapse naturally into the batter once baking.

Plum Torte (4 of 4)

Plum Torte (adapted from the NY Times)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 10 plums
  • Cinnamon for dusting
  • 1/2 a lemon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 inch cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter again (you can skip this step if you have a springform pan).
  2. Cut plums in half and remove pits.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light in color, about three minutes.
  5. Add the dry ingredients and eggs to the bowl. Beat on low to medium speed until just combined.
  6. Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with plum halves, skin side up. Dust with sugar and cinnamon and squirt with lemon juice.
  7. Bake for 45-50 minutes and let cool completely.

 

Dinner · Vegetarian

Ratatouille Spaghetti

Even though the temperatures this week undoubtedly hint at fall, the vegetables at the farmers market still speak of summer. Nothing makes me happier than the colors and flavors of tomatoes, summer squash, corn, and eggplant, and I’m happy to extend their season way into September.

This brings me to one of my favorite recipes, ratatouille.  This success of this dish is rooted in its components – bring together all your freshest summer vegetables, throw them in a pot, and you’re sure to get a winning result.

What’s more, the cooking directions are entirely informed by sturdiness of the vegetable. Curious where to start? Eggplant is notorious for its long cooking times, so why not saute it in a batch by itself. Ready to move on? Add in your peppers and onions, which typically take about 5-7 minutes to begin breaking down. Follow up with your summer squash and zucchini, since both vegetables have relatively similar textures and will cook at about the same speed. Top the dish off with your tomatoes and continue cooking until the flavors and fresh and sweet – you’ll know it’s ready when you taste it!

A few tips: chop your vegetables so that they are fairly comparable in size. This will help to control cooking times, ensuring that each vegetable is cooked through (but not overcooked!). In addition, don’t forget your seasonings. Salt and pepper go a long way with fresh summer vegetables, and the basil adds a special last touch.

Ratatouille Spaghetti (adapted from Alice Waters’ recipe at Food 52)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Japanese eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 red pepper, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup corn kernels (from one ear of corn)
  • handful of basil, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • olive oil
  • cooked spaghetti, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a sturdy skillet. Once hot, add eggplant slices and saute until lightly browned and softened, about 7-10 minutes. Remove eggplant and set it aside.
  2. Heat another tbsp olive oil and add in the onions. Stir for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add in the garlic, 1/2 the basil, and red chili flakes and stir for 30 more seconds.
  3. Add in the diced red pepper and stir for a few more minutes. Once slightly softened, add in the zucchini and summer squash. After 2 to 3 minutes more, add in the tomatoes. Salt and pepper as needed and cook for 10 minutes over low to medium heat (tomatoes should not come to a boil).
  4. Add corn and eggplant to the skillet and cook for 10 more minutes, or until all vegetables are softened and flavorful. Top with remaining basil and serve over spaghetti or pasta.

Serves 2-3

Breakfast · Fruit

Triple Berry Muffins

As a lover of all things sweet for breakfast, I often wake up with a craving for muffins. However, daunted by the thought of finding a recipe and gathering the ingredients, I tend to settle for something simpler – and right out of the cereal box.

That is, until I found this recipe. There’s a short list of ingredients, so it’s likely that you have them all on hand in your pantry at this very moment. Flour? Yes. Sugar? Yes. Eggs and milk? In the refrigerator and ready for use. In addition, there’s a ton of flexibility built right into the recipe. Granulated sugar can be easily replaced with brown, vegetable oil can be swapped for butter (or another variety of oil), and berries can be removed entirely or accompanied by nuts (pecans and walnuts would be ideal).

For those of you that see this recipe as a base for future experimentation, there’s plenty of room to play around with spices. Cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom come quickly to mind, but other spices would work just as well. Add lemon zest, lime juice, or other citrus flavors if you like muffins with an extra tangy bite.

When it comes to mixing together the ingredients, that’s where this recipe really begins to shine. Most importantly, you’ll only need two bowls from start to finish. If you’re like me and loved baking but hate dishes, that’s a huge win. And, if you opt for oil instead of butter, there’s no need to break out the mixer – a large mixing spoon will do. Give the batter a few stirs, divide it between the 12 muffin cups, and all the sudden you’re done.

Berry Muffin Breakfast

Once in the oven, these muffins come out warm and toasty in under 20 minutes. Combined with prep time, that means the entire recipe comes together easily in under 35 minutes. Now, baking breakfast doesn’t have to last into the early afternoon.

Triple Berry Muffins Recipe (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (1/2 cup if you want a very moist muffin)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups mixed berries (I used raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries)
  • Lemon zest

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly butter two muffin trays (6 muffins each).
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar and vegetable oil. Stir in the eggs and vanilla.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Gently stir in the berries and divide muffins into the prepared muffin cups.
  5. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

 

 

Dessert · Fruit

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

One of the things I love most about summer is the sudden appearance of fruit desserts. I’ve seen them pop up just about everywhere, from the fanciest of restaurants to my friend’s laid back weeknight BBQ. The varieties are endless, beginning with berries in June and transferring over to peaches and other stone fruits as the season progresses. Even the toppings differ, ranging from streusels to sweet puffy biscuits.

My personal favorite fruit dessert is the crumble, a simple dish of baked fruit with oats in the topping. The oats compliment the already delicious combination of flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon, adding a touch of crunch to each bite. If you’re curious about the distinctions between summer fruit desserts, like what makes a crumble different from a crisp,  check out this article via the Huffington Post.

Rhubarb Crumble Food Blog (1 of 1)

There are a few options for the filling. Purists will stick with one fruit, but I always prefer two (and a touch of zest, if you have it!). This particular crumble features strawberries and rhubarb, balancing tart and sweet flavors. Both fruits are on the watery side, however, so add corn starch to the mix if you prefer a thicker filling.

Rhubarb Crumble Food Blog (1 of 1)-2

From start to finish, crumbles should take no longer than an hour to prepare. And don’t forget – while you’re waiting for the fruit to bake, run out and buy a pint of vanilla ice cream. You’ll thank me later.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Recipe (adapted from William-Sonoma Essentials of Baking)

Filling:

  • 6 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2.5 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered (if large)
  • scant 1/2 cup sugar (I used a bit less)
  • juice and zest of half a lemon

Topping:

  • 1 cup of flour, spooned and leveled
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a square Pyrex dish (about 8 x 8)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together fruits, white sugar, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and pour into the prepared dish.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, and oats. Slowly add the melted butter and stir until small clumps begin to form.
  4. Spoon crumbs onto the fruit mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top crumbs are golden brown. Let cool and serve.