Tag Archives: Herbs

{ Herbed Israeli Coucous with Apples, Cranberries, & Almonds }

A day characterized by complete gluttony, laziness, and endless vino, it is no wonder that Thanksgiving is one of my favorite American holidays! Unfortunately though, the dinner, which normally packs about 3,000 – 4,000 calories (not including the next-day turkey sandwiches), leaves most American’s feeling stuffed for days/weeks/months. So why not lighten the meal up a bit?!?

The easiest way to cut back the number of calories in your Thanksgiving feast, it to serve lighter and healthier side dishes. Get rid of that artery-clogging green bean casserole, which costs you about 276 calories, and end the tradition of sweet potato and marshmallow casseroles, which add an additional 476 calories to your plate! Instead, opt for for sautéed and steamed fresh veggies that are prepared without incorporating a stick of butter and heavy cream.

This recipe for herbed Isreali couscous, encompasses all the flavors of fall and would make a delicious (and healthy) addition to any Thanksgiving buffet table! The herbs serve as a refreshing palate cleanser and the light vinaigrette is an interesting contrast to the richer gravies and sauces on the table. Furthermore, the cubed green apples and slivered almonds work together to deliver just the right amount of crunch to the dish.

On the other 364 days of the year, this couscous makes a fabulous side dish for lamb and roasted chicken. It is also great to bring to picnics and parties!

{ Ingredients }

For the Couscous:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 medium green apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted in oven*

*Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

{ To Make the Couscous }

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. You really want to open up the nutty flavors of the couscous so it is important that you let it brown properly!. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

{ To Make the Vinaigrette }

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

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{ Tomato Basil Bruschetta }

Today was a fabulous day that ended with a fabulous dinner–as all truly fabulous days must! (I am certain that the quality and quantity of food that I consume in a day and my respective mood are positively correlated). Anyways, tonight my friend, Brooks, hosted a family-style Italian dinner. No, Brooks is not Italian (he is Brazilian) but yes, he is one of the best damn cooks I have encountered and therefore he can cook anything well–including meatballs and gravy! My little home-maker instincts kicked in earlier this afternoon, and I decided I would make bruschetta to bring as an appetizer…plus, my mom always said, “never go to a dinner party empty handed!” So I ran out to the store and bought bruschetta supplies….12 Roma Plum tomatoes, a package of cherry tomatoes, a bulb of garlic, and some basil. Then I came back home and set about making my mouth-watering creation. I did not follow a recipe to make this but I am going to give the approximate portions of everything that I used, so that you can make it and so I can replicate it again!
It was a huge hit and sadly there was none left totake home, but I’m glad everyone enjoyed it. I served it on diagonally sliced tuscan bread, which I first toasted in the oven on 350 degrees with a little drizzle of olive oil and oregano. I then generously topped each piece with the tomato mixture and garnished with basil leaves! For anyone who loves the tomatoes at Vilaggio (and who doesn’t?), these come out tasting practically the same!

{ Ingredients }

  • 12 roma plum tomatoes
  • 1 package of grape tomatoes
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • 2 green onions
  • 10-15 basil leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
{ To Make BrushettaHalve all of the grape tomatoes and place in large mixing bowl. Cut an X into the top of each plum tomato and then bring a medium sauce pan of water to a boil. Add the tomatoes 2-3 at a time for one minute each and then remove from water and peel back the skins. Cut off the tops and remove seeds, chopping into small pieces.
Add these pieces to the mixing bowl of grape tomatoes. Repeat until all of the plum tomatoes have been done. Chop the green onions and basil, and mince the garlic gloves, adding all ingredients to mixing bowl. Then add the olive oil and vinegar and a few generous sprinkles of Kosher salt. Mix well to coat all tomatoes. Allow to sit and then serve on toasted bread!
But let me also mention the delicious main course that took place tonight. Brooks was head chef (as he should be in his own kitchen) and I enjoyed playing sous chef for a change! The menu included a Baked Brie Bread Bowla Mixed Green Salad with Petit Tomatoes and Red Onion tossed in Homemade Dijon Vinaigrette, Spaghetti with Gravy, and Homemade Meatballs! Ohhh, and i forgot about the Brownie Sundaes for dessert. Talk about a feast….
The meatballs were unreal. I am Italian and I think my mom makes the best meatballs ever, but these were a close rival and they were incredible. Plus, Brooks made them in a cupcake pan, and I tend to love anything that comes out of a cupcake pan so I was instantly happy. Here is a photo of the meatballs, just after coming out of the oven….

Meatballs Post Oven

You can see the fat drippings in the bottom of the pan, which is abundant considering that Brooks uses a combination of Veal, Beef, and Italian sausage to make his meatballs….plenty of fat there. After he spoons out each little masterpiece from the pan he pours the drippings into his pot of gravy, which instantly thickens the tomato sauce. He then places each of the meatballs into the pot of gravy and allows them to finish slow cooking amid the tomatoes for another 20 or 30 minutes. The sauce absorbs the flavor of the meat, and the meat absorbs the moisture and acidity of the sauce….it’s a beautiful marriage a meatball and gravy!
The salad was simple but the homemade dijon dressing really took it to another level. It was very similar to the much coveted secret sauce from La Sandwicherie!! (see post) and the bite of the dijon mustard with the greens was great. Here is a look at my beautiful plate of food…

Spaghetti with Meatball topped with Ricotta and Parmesan Cheeses

As you can see, we finished off the meatball with a scoop of ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese shavings!!! WOW! Even “Big Nick”–clearly fully Italian–approved of Brooks creation, despite his former doubts. So delicious.
Now for my little confession….and I’m praying that no one from the dinner party reads this (although I secretly hope that some of them follow my blog!). As sous chef, I was in charge of cooking out the pasta. And believe me, I can cook out a perfectly salted and al dente pasta in my sleep. I know how to cook pasta like people know how to spell their name….it is just a part of me…second nature. Anyways, I salt the water with the large salt container, add the pasta, and start to cook. But, when I taste the pasta it isn’t salty! So naturally, I add more salt. A few minutes later I taste the pasta and it almost tastes sweet. I can’t believe it, so I reach for the salt one last time and realize that it is actually a container of sugar. His sugar container looks just like my salt container at home. So instead of salting the pasta, I have been coating it in sugar water. Before I start to panic, I reach for the morton’s and begin a generous pour just hoping that the salt will mask the sugar. Thankfully, it did and no one noticed. I couldn’t even taste the problem myself! Anyways, funny little secret that no one knows…..yet, at least!

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{ Tomato Basil Soup }

Tomato Basil Soup

(Adapted from Tyler Florence)
An all-liquid diet equates to hell for a serious foodie. It is even more miserable than I anticipated that it would be, if you can imagine that. For example, I went grocery shopping today and had to actually turn down free samples of food. I never turn down free things, let alone food! It was torture as these older women eagerly waved cubed of aged cheese and sliced salami on toothpicks at me. I had to say “no thank you,” but I was thinking “I want to be fed. I want your samples, I really do, but I just physically cannot eat!” My mom can see my frustration (she caught me reading her cookbooks as literature earlier today) and she decided to make me a nice hearty soup for dinner–tomato basil.
I can’t say that I helped, or even watched my mom make this soup because I was passed out from my pain killers, but it turned out great! She used fresh basil, thyme, and rosemary from our herb garden so the depth of flavor was intense and delicious. She then topped off the soup with some heavy cream and cracked black pepper, which balanced the acidity of the tomatoes perfectly. I ate this as a simple soup tonight, but I think it would also taste delicious over pasta as a faux vodka sauce (once I have teeth again, of course!). I will definitely be adding this to recipe to my own collection, hopefully you will enjoy it too!

{ Ingredients }

  • 2 1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (mix of heirloom, cherry, wine, and plum)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 small yellow onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 5 fresh sprigs of thym
  • Fresh Parsley
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
{ To Make the Soup
Preheat the over the 450 degrees F.
Wash, core, and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic, and onions onto a baking tray. Tie up the rosemary and parsley with twin and add onto the tray. Drizzle with a 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until caramelized.
Remove the roasted tomatoes, garlic, and onion from the onion and transfer to a large stock pot. Cut off the twin from herbs and add to the stock pot as well. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, bay leaves, and butter. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutws or until liquid has reduced by a third.
Wash and dry basil leaves and add to stock pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken broth, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and garnish with drizzle of cream before serving.

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{ Walnut Sage Fettuccine }

Walnut Sage Fettuccine

I mentioned in the previous blog post that my mom and I made three different pasta sauces for dinner tonight, and thisWalnut Sage Sauce was one of them. I have never tasted anything like it before, and it is awesome!! The flavor of the walnuts really opens up when they toast in the pan and who doesn’t love the taste of butter?!? This simple recipe is the product of my mother’s culinary creativity, and I hope you will all enjoy it as much as we did tonight!

{ Ingredients }

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup roughly chopped sage leaves
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Cooked out fettuccine

{ To Make Pasta } Place the walnuts in a saucepan over medium heat and allow the walnuts to toast until fragrant. Add the stick of butter in pieces and then stir so that it melts completely. Once melted, add the Parmesan and the sage leaves until they wilt slightly. Season with kosher salt, to taste. Pour over desired amount of fettuccine pasta and serve with freshly grated Parmesan!

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