Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Quick and Easy Couscous

Although authentic couscous is very labor intensive, it needn't be for most of us. This version is so easy and practically fool-proof but it does require a little self restraint.

As a cooking instructor, I find that many people don't feel comfortable in the kitchen unless they are actively doing something. Doing something often manifests are stirring. Although beneficial for some dishes like risottos or sauces, I can't stress enough that you should refrain from stirring from time to time. Some food needs time to heat, or brown, or soak up a little moisture. Not stirring can be integral to the desired outcome.

With that in mind, this couscous recipe requires that you basically do nothing. As a matter of fact if you do stir, even just a little, you will probably end up with a lumpy mess. So, relax and trust that everything will be fine in 10 minutes time.  That kind of rhymes so it must to true...a new rule to live by.

Quick and Easy Couscous
Serves 4

1 1/2 dry couscous
pinch of saffron steeped in hot water
     for 5 minutes, optional
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

Pour the couscous into a lasagna pan or casserole dish.  Bring 2 and 1/4 cup of water to a boil.  Season with saffron, sea salt, and olive oil. Stir until the sea salt has dissolved. Pour over the couscous as evenly as possible. DO NOT STIR! Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rest until all the water has been absorbed, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.

When the water is absorbed, remove the plastic wrap and rake through the couscous with a fork to fluff and separate the grains. Serve immediately.

Try pairing Quick and Easy Couscous with Adam Grossman's Moroccan Chicken

Monday, February 17, 2014

Adam Grossman's Moroccan Chicken

This month's Glorified Home Chef is Adam Grossman.  Adam showed me how to make his grandmother's recipe for Moroccan Chicken.  As a young woman Adam's grandmother traveled through Morocco. She brought back this recipe which has been handed down from generation to generation.

It's a healthy and quick weeknight supper that you will just love.  Check out the video! 

Moroccan Chicken
Recipe adapted from Adam Grossman

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 red bell pepper, cut into batons (1/2" wide strips)
1 green bell pepper, cut into batons (1/2" wide strips)
1 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch of saffron threads
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 cup of blanched white, whole almonds or slivered almonds
2 small zucchini squash (grated in long strands or julienne cut)
granulated garlic, salt, and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sweat, stirring occasionally, until transparent.

Add the cubed chicken pieces and sauté until just cooked and opaque - add a little more oil if need be to keep from sticking. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add the bell peppers and saute for 3 to 4 minutes until tender.  Next stir in the golden raisins, spices, the bouillon cube and blanched almonds. Cover and cook mixture over low heat until the vegetables are soft, about 3 to 5 minutes longer. 

Return the onions and chicken to the pan. If the vegetable are dry, add a little water to moisten the dish, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup should be enough. Cover and cook until chicken is fully cooked and hot.

Finally, add the zucchinis and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the zucchinis are tender - about 2 minutes for grated or 5 for julienne cut.

Serve over couscous.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Heart Shaped Meringues - What a way to say I love you, Valentine!

I'm always looking for grain-free dessert ideas. Plus, I have a weakness for anything that's kitschy cute and what better time of year to embrace kitsch than Valentine's Day.

I saw a recipe by Carla Hall in this month's Redbook and was inspired to rework it. I just felt like it was more complicated than it needed to be. So, here's my simplified version of Heart Shaped Meringues with Jam.

Heart Shaped Meringues with Jam
Makes 4 to 6, 4-inch hearts

4 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup of your favorite jam, fresh sliced strawberries, raspberries or passion fruit puree

Preheat oven to 225F.

Place the egg whites in a mixing bowl and whip with an electric mixer at medium speed until they are foamy and hold a soft peak.

Continue to whip the egg whites as you gradually add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.  Continue to whip at medium speed until the whites become very stiff and glossy.

Remove the mixer and fold in the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and the vanilla extract.  Don't over mix or the egg white will begin to loose their fluff.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spoon the egg white mixture into a large piping bag or gallon-sized plastic bag. Pipe the outline of a heart about 4 inches long by 4 inches wide. Fill in the center and use a spatula to smooth it out. Then, pipe just the outline of the heart again so you create a raised edge like you see in the photo above. Repeat the process 3 to 5 more times, depending on how much meringue you use.

Bake the heart shaped meringues until they are firm, dry and crisp - about  1 1/2 hours. Finished meringues should be dry but not browned. Allow to cool completely.

Once cooled, the baked meringues can be stored in tightly closed plastic bags for a week or two.

When you are ready to serve them, spoon in the jam or line with fresh berries.

If you'd like to recreate the classic pavlova, fill the meringue with whipped cream first and then top with passion fruit puree and fresh strawberries or kiwi fruit slices.