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lamb tagine – a feast for the senses!

lamb tagineA tagine, the conical shaped cooking vessel, is traditionally made out of clay and was first used by North African nomads.   The tagine’s conical top allows moisture escaping from the ingredients to condense on the lid and fall back onto the dish, resulting in fork-tender meat and vegetables using a minimum of liquid.  Think of a slow cooker or Dutch oven.  Continue Reading →

Roasted Butternut Squash and Couscous

roasted butternut squash and couscousIt’s been wet and foggy the past two days and as such has put me in the mood for vegetables I would usually cook in the cooler months.  That said, there’s absolutely no reason why squash shouldn’t be included in a summer dish.  When I think of the winter squash family, butternut always comes out on top.  It’s sweet to begin with but when roasted nothing beats the caramelized flavor of browned edges.   Butternut squash doesn’t really need doctoring but experimenting with different seasonings such as cumin, allspice, anchovies, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, truffle oil, rosemary, sage, lemon juice, and so on will only heighten your senses making butternut squash a superstar veggie! Continue Reading →

Halloumi with Oven Roasted Tomatoes and Couscous

halloumi with oven roasted tomaotes & couscous by The Culinary ChaseIf you haven’t heard or tried halloumi cheese, you’re in for a treat.  Halloumi, the squeaky cheese, does not melt when heated. Instead it develops a delicious crust that surrounds a slightly springy, mild interior that squeaks between your teeth! Halloumi is the traditional white cheese of Cyprus and is made from ewes’ and goats’ milk.  It is a semi-hard cheese and is delicious when grilled or fried.  This dish uses halloumi as the crowning glory and works beautifully with the oven roasted tomatoes and couscous.

Serves 2 to 4
Halloumi cheese, thickly sliced
handful of mint and coriander, roughly chopped
2 cups of cooked couscous
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
roasted cherry or grape tomatoes
juice from half a lemon (can also use a splash of red wine vinegar)

halloumi1.  Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry halloumi for 2-3 minutes each side, until golden and lightly charred.
2. In a bowl, fluff the couscous with a fork. Add mint and coriander.  Add a splash of olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar. Toss to combine. Season according to taste and add more olive oil if mixture seems too dry. Add roasted tomatoes and gently toss.
3. Place herbed couscous on plates and top with halloumi slices. Drizzle more olive oil on top and serve immediately.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  Not only are your taste buds are in for a treat, this super easy meal is ready for the table in less than 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Tomato Dressing

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Tomato Dressing by The Culinary ChaseCouscous is a versatile pasta made of tiny grains of dough that are steamed. Couscous originated in Morocco and northern Algeria, and is a staple throughout North Africa. It can be served as a breakfast cereal, dressed as a salad, and sweetened for a dessert. It’s most common use is as a side in a stew or savory sauce (much like the way rice is served in other cultures). Israeli couscous is larger than the regular couscous and it has a chewy texture with a slight nutty flavor. The first time I used couscous, it was with roast chicken…so delicious!  If you like this recipe, then try swordfish involtini with couscous – a dinner table show stopper and it’s relatively easy to make!

Serves 6
adapted by Smitten Kitchen

1 1/2 lbs. grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Couscous:
2 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 1/4 cups Israeli (pearl) couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1 teaspoon thyme, chopped

roasted tomates by The Culinary ChasePreheat oven to 300°F. Arrange tomatoes, cut side up, on a cookie sheet. Add garlic and drizzle with olive oil. Roast until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around edges, about 1 hour. Cool in pan. Peel garlic and puree with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup roasted tomatoes in a blender until dressing is very smooth.

To make the couscous, bring broth to a boil in a saucepan and stir in couscous. Lower heat to a simmer, uncovered, for 6 minutes. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork to make sure no clumping takes place. Transfer couscous to a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, dressing, roasted tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  Couscous needs enhancing as it’s bland on its own. The roasted tomato dressing combined with the herbs takes a humble staple and makes it shine.  Enjoy!

Peppers Stuffed with Couscous, Halloumi and Currants

stuffed peppers with couscous, halloumi & currantsThere is no such thing for me as a casual glance at a cookbook. And, when I see one that is esthetically pleasing to the eye with beautifully illustrated drawings, tactile, and delicious-looking recipes I am hooked!   Mr. Wilkson’s Vegetables truly is ‘A Cookbook To Celebrate The Garden‘.  For every vegetable he writes snippets of information including history, nutritional content and growing and harvesting tips.   There are more than 80 recipes so deciding which one to try first wasn’t easy.   Sometimes I am forced to plan my meal on what is available at the time I am food shopping and last Friday I was at a farmers’ market where I spotted a box of mixed baby sweet peppers.  Aha! I will make Mr. Wilkinson’s peppers stuffed with couscous, halloumi and currants.

Mr-Wilkinsons-Favourite-Vegetables-Cover-imageServes 4
adapted from Mr. Wilkinson’s Vegetables

1/2 cup couscous
6 long sweet peppers
1 1/2 tablespoons pine nuts (roughly chopped)
2 tablespoons currants
1 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon Italian parsley leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/4 oz. halloumi, cut into small chunks

colorful baby bell peppersPreheat the oven to 375°F. Place the couscous in a heatproof bowl and add 1/2 cup water. Stir with a fork for 20 seconds, cover with plastic wrap and leave for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir again to fluff up the grains. Put aside.

baby bell peppersTrim the tops off the peppers, only 1/2-to-3/4 inch from the top and set the tops aside. Insert a small knife inside the pepper and cut out the seeds and membrane. Turn upside down and shake or gently tap until all the seeds have fallen out.

stuffed peppersAdd the remaining ingredients to the couscous and mix thoroughly. Carefully spoon the mixture into the peppers, compacting it with your finger, then place the tops back on. Place in a small ovenproof baking dish and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the peppers are soft and browned.

The Culinary Chase’s Note:  I left the tops off the peppers as they were baking and this didn’t interfere with the flavors. If you can’t find halloumi cheese try using Queso Blanco or if that’s not available try feta.  I will definitely make these again!  Enjoy!