The Yellow Salad that isn’t Yellow

Yellow Couscous Salad

Sometimes you find good food in the most unlikely places. This is the story of such a dish, a salad to be exact, that I found in the most unlikely of places – a small gas station convenience store called Yellow.

I was rushing around one day, and coming from Jerusalem and on my way to Petah Tikvah, with no time for food in between. I was hungry and needed sustenance. The only place for miles was a Yellow store at a gas station. On the shelf, between the sandwiches was a small salad that looked like it may not kill me. That’s just about all I could hope for at that point – this was a gas station after all. So I bought it, closed my eyes, and started eating. This one one of the best surprises, and a real “don’t judge a book by its cover” or in this case, “don’t judge a salad by its surrounding” moment.

It was fresh, tasty and most of all, an original combination of salad ingredients that prompted me to recreate it that very week. So while I call this my Yellow Salad, it’s really a couscous based salad with a lot of added, tasty ingredients.

YELLOW COUSCOUS SALAD

Ingredients

1 500g (1lb) bag of instant couscous – large grain

1 cup finely shredded red cabbage

2-3 small cucumbers finely cubed

1 cup of garden peas (I recommend frozen)

1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

¾ cup dried cranberries

2 stalk of fresh celery finely chopped

Dressing

½ cup olive oil

¼ cup red wine vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

A dash of garlic powder or granulated garlic

Salt and pepper

1 teaspoon sugar

How to do it

  1. Prepare the couscous according to the instructions on the bag. Allow the prepared couscous to cool down to room temperature. (You can prepare this the day before as well, but it doesn’t take very long)
  2. Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the couscous and mix.
  3. Shake the dressing ingredients together well and pour over the salad. Allow the salad to sit for a few hours before serving. If you are keeping it in the fridge, remove the salad about half an hour before you serve it so it isn’t too cold.

Serves about 8.

Welcome Summer with an Italian Inspired Salad

Italian Flag Pasta Salad

Finally! Summer seems to have broken through the grip of the nasty winter. This means a return to colder food, and of course, salads are on the menu.

I recently had to prepare a filling dish that was easy to transport. Nothing like a good old pasta salad to fit this bill. Bored with my regulars, I decided to come up with something new, pretty much hauling out whatever was in my fridge, and it worked!

I was so inspired by the colors of my favorite country in the world to visit – Italy. The red, white and green are covered by the pasta and zfatit cheese (white); roasted red peppers and cherry tomatoes (red); and rocket and basil (green). With a few additional colors abd tastes to round out the flavor, this salad is just yummy, and looks great on a table. You can also adjust the quantities of the vegetables and cheese according to your own preferences.

ITALIAN FLAG PASTA SALAD

Ingredients

500 g (1lb) penne pasta (or any other sturdy noodle)

1-2 cups of roasted pepper pieces (if you’re in a hurry, you can used bottled roasted peppers, or for a more tasty option, roast them yourself – click here for the “how to”).

200 g (7 oz) Tzfatit cheese cut into small cubes (I recommend the Meshek Tzuriel brand – very creamy) If you can’t get Tzfatit, use a very mild feta cheese. For the parev version, just omit the cheese.

½ cup of chopped black olives (I buy the pre-cut olives – saves tons of time)

¾ cup corn kernels

About 15 cherry tomatoes cut into quarters

A large handful of rocket leaves

A small handful of fresh basil leaves chopped

Dressing

¾ cup olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 heaped teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper

How to do it

1. Roast the peppers (if you’re not buying). You can prepare them ahead of time and refrigerate. Cut the peeled roasted peppers into small pieces.

2. Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the box. When you drain the pasta, rinse with cold water to cool down quickly and set aside. Rinsing also stops the pasta from sticking together.

3. In a large bowl, combine the pasta, peppers and all the rest of the ingredients and gently toss.

4. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad and mix

Serves about 12 as a side dish.

 

 

Pasta-free Zucchini Lasagna for Pesach

Zucchini Lasagna

You know those recipes that people post on their Facebook statuses? I am sure most of you ignore them. But recently, one caught my eye for a zucchini parmesan. Coming just before Pesach, I decided it was worth a second read as it didn’t have any chametz.

I wasn’t excited about the part that called for frying the zucchini, but I saw the potential and decided to transform it into a “fake lasagna” that would work well as a side dish or even main dish for vegetarians for Pesach. So I went all mad-cook on the recipe, and came out with a dish that will definitely become part of my year-round repertoire. It’s got all the flavors of lasagna without the pasta, so this means it’s also good for those who stay away from gluten.

PASTA-FREE ZUCCHINI LASAGNA

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

4-6 large zucchinis sliced lengthways into half centimeter (¼ inch) slices (if you only have small zucchinis, then make sure you have enough to cover two full oven trays). Slice off a thin slice of skin on either side of the zucchini so that there aren’t any slices that are half skin. zucchinilasagna1

300 g (12 oz) grated Mozzarella

400g (14 oz) crushed tomatoes

4-5 garlic cloves crushed

6-8 fresh chopped basil leaves

1 teaspoon sugar

250 g (½lb) ricotta cheese (you can also use cottage cheese)

1 egg

Salt and pepper to taste

100 g (4 oz) grated Parmesan or Emmental cheese (any cheese with a nice tang)

How to do it

1. Pre-heat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF)

2. Line two large baking trays with baking paper and lightly spread them with olive oil. Line the trays with the sliced zucchini – squeeze them all in there; there’s no need for space between the slices.

3. Roast for about half an hour till just starting to get color, turning them over halfway through. (Make sure not to overcook them as they will get too soft and you won’t be able to handle them.)

3. In a small saucepan, heat some olive oil and fry the garlic just until it starts to get golden. Add the crushed tomato, chopped fresh basil leaves, salt and pepper, and sugar. Allow to come to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes. Set aside.

4. In a bowl, combine the egg, ricotta cheese, salt and pepper. Mix till combined. Set aside.

5. To assemble, grease a medium-sized baking dish with a little olive oil or cooking spray. Evenly spread about 4-5 tablespoons of the tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish.

6. Place a layer of zucchini strips on top of the tomato sauce, trying to cover as much of the area as possible. Spread the ricotta mixture over the tomato sauce, spread about one third of the tomato sauce over the ricotta, and then sprinkle about half the grated Mozzarella over the tomato sauce.

7. Add another layer of the zucchini strips on top of the cheese, and spread another one third of the tomato sauce over it, followed by the rest of the Mozarella.

8. Add a final layer of zucchini strips, followed by tomato sauce and the Parmesan or Emmental cheese, spreading it evenly over the top of the dish.

9. Bake at 180ºC (350ºF) for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese starts browning slightly.

Serves about 8 as a side dish.

If you love risotto, you’ll love this

Fake red rice risotto

Fake red rice risotto

Here’s a recipe that has all the yumminess (I know it’s not a word but it should be) of risotto, without the endless stirring and with a whole bunch of nutritional value from brown or red rice. I love red rice – it’s got a really good flavor and never gets mushy, but this will work with any of the whole grain rices you enjoy. Just make sure you don’t use white rice.

This is hard to beat as a dairy side dish. In fact, for those vegetarians among you, it could go down well as a main dish too. The first time I served this I knew it would not be the last time. The reviews were stellar, and this one is definitely a keeper in my house. Serve this as a side dish with fish, and you’ve got a sensational main course.

The original recipe is from the Smitten Kitchen, but I’ve tweaked it a little to suit my needs (and laziness).

FAKE BROWN RICE RISOTTO WITH SPINACH AND ONIONS

Ingredients

2 cups uncooked brown, red or mixed rice

2 large onions, quartered and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoon butter

Salt and pepper to taste

1 bag 300g (one prewashed bag) spinach

2 cups of grated yellow cheese (use a cheese with a lot of flavor like cheddar or emmental)

½ cup parev chicken or vegetable broth (for reheating only)

How to do it

1. Cook the rice according to the directions on the package. You can do this ahead of time and refrigerate the rice until you are ready to make the whole dish.

2. In a large skillet or wok, heat the oil and butter and add the onions. Fry them on medium heat until they are caramel brown in color, stirring occasionally. This will take a while (25-30 minutes).

3. Slice the spinach leaves into strips and add to the onions and let them wilt. This will take about a minute.

4. Assemble the dish by mixing the rice and grated cheese into the onions and spinach. Season to taste.

5. If you are reheating this, add some stock before reheating so that it doesn’t dry out.

Serves about 8 as a side dish.

Brace yourself for winter storms with a gooey hot chocolate pudding

Almost gone!

Almost gone!

The nasty winter storm that’s promising to be this year’s “big one” is rolling in. When the rain is crashing down outside and the temperatures plummet, there’s nothing like a hot, gooey chocolate pudding to make you forget about the weather. Just the word “pudding” makes me feel good.

This one is a real oldie, and quite a classic. It’s that yummy, very easy to make dessert that starts with the batter at the bottom and a whole lot of liquid on top, and in the oven, magic happens, and it comes out with a cake-like top and a lush fudgey base. This recipe pops up all over the internet in various forms, and has many different theories for its inception. Some say that its very basic ingredients point to post WWII origins when ingredients were scarce. My late mother-in-law, who spent many years in Atlanta and gave me the recipe, always attributed it to the South African expats living in there in the 1970s, who, she would always say, made the best desserts. Not sure where it actually comes from, but what is clear is that it tastes wonderful, and you won’t have any leftovers, especially if you serve it hot out of the oven. The last time I made it, I had to swat my guests away so I could take a picture of what was left, hence the less than beautiful picture here.

This recipe is for 6 servings, but you may want to double it unless you like seeing miserable faces at your table. It’s also easy to make it parev, by using soy milk instead of regular. There’s no discernible taste difference.

CHOCOLATE FUDGE PUDDING

Ingredients

Batter

1 cup flour

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

3 tablespoons melted butter/margarine

½ cup milk (or soy milk)

Topping

¾ cup brown sugar

¼ cup cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

1 cup hot water

How to do it

1. Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF).

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl. Stir in the milk, melted butter/margarine and vanilla.

3. Pour the batter into a medium-sized greased baking dish.

4. Mix together all the ingredients for the topping and carefully pour over the batter.

5. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Serve hot or warm. If you really want to add to the decadence, serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6.

Winter’s here: Time for warm apple galette

Vanilla Apple Galette

I know it’s Hanukkah and I should be posting recipes for home-made donuts, but I’ve accepted the fact that there’s nothing I hate more than filling my house with the smell of deep frying in order to create a donut that can easily be bought. Instead, here’s a dessert from one of my favorite dessert “genres”.

To me, there is no better dessert than a warm apple “something” with vanilla ice cream on the side. Oh yum!! And when you’ve made your own pastry it tastes even better. And I promise, making pastry is extremely simple, especially in this case. Don’t be put off. Tip: only use margarine if you must have a parev dessert. The butter pastry is that bit tastier.

This recipe was passed to my by my 0% (or close to it) body fat personal trainer, who along with being super fit and in amazing shape, makes and eats desserts, and passes on the good recipes to me. So often, while sweating over squats or bench press, I am thinking about tempting desserts, and it’s all her fault.

If you’re wondering about the terminology, a galette is a rounded pastry that wraps around a fruit filling. What’s nice about galettes is that they’re meant to look a little messy, so no pressure to crimp edges or make a perfect looking pie. Make sure you give yourself time for the apple mixture to stand and drain. DO try to serve this one warm. If you can’t take it straight out of the oven and onto the table, then warm it up in a low oven for about 10 minutes before serving.

VANILLA APPLE GALETTE

Ingredients

Pastry

1 1/3 cup flour

120 g (4.5 oz) cold butter/margarine cut into small pieces (about 8)

3 tablespoons cold water

3 tablespoons icing sugar or caster sugar

½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Filling

10 Granny Smith (green) apples, peeled and sliced

30 g (1 oz) butter/margarine

4 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding powder

Optional: ¾ cup raisins or dried cranberries

For brushing – 1 beaten egg

How to do it

Pastry

1. Place the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter or margarine and mix together either with a pastry blender or with 2 knives, cutting in a crossing motion so you slice through the piece of butter and combine them with the flour.

2. When the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, add the water and bring the dough together with your hands until you have a ball of dough. Work the dough as little as possible, just till it comes together.

3. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a half an hour.

Filling

1. In a large skillet or wok, melt the butter/ margarine, and add the apple slices. Lightly saute the apples on medium-high heat. (If using, add the raisins or cranberries and stir)

2. Add the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring now and again.

3. Remove from the  heat and stir in the vanilla powder, making sure it’s well mixed through.

4. Transfer the filling into a strainer placed over a plate or bowl, and allow to stand for about an hour to remove excess liquids.

Assembly

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Line a 26 cm (10 inch) spring form pan with baking paper. (You can also use a Pyrex dish, and then you don’t need the baking paper)

2. Sprinkle flour over a clean counter top area and over a rolling pin. Flatten the ball of dough a little with your hands and then roll the dough out until it’s about 35 cm (14 inches) in diameter – it doesn’t have to be a perfect circle, and the edges can and should be ragged. As you are rolling, turn the dough over a few times, rolling the other side, making sure your surface stays floured.

3. Transfer the dough onto the pan with the sides hanging over the edges of your pan.  (I flip the dough over the rolling pin, and place the rolling pin across the middle of the pan and unfold the dough)

4. Pour the filling into the dough, and flip the dough from the sides of the pan over the filling, as far as it reaches – it will not cover all the filling. Brush the dough with the beaten egg.

5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Serves about 8.

A Winter Warm-up with Indian Spiced Chicken and Spinach

Chicken Curry with Spinach

Haul out your large wok, and get ready for a simple and delicious chicken curry made with boneless thighs (pargiot) and all those perfect Indian spices. What I love about this dish is that it’s relatively quick to prepare. To me, there’s nothing like the great, moist texture of boneless chicken thighs – they just don’t dry out like breasts tend to, so leftovers taste just as good as the freshly-made dish (that’s why I double this recipe). The down side is that they are a little fatty, so I do take the extra time to trim as much fat off as I can. Served with white or brown rice, this is a very happy comfort food for the winter.

INDIAN SPICED CHICKEN WITH SPINACH

Ingredients

1 kg (2.5 lb) boned chicken thighs (pargiot), cut into 3 or 4 pieces each

About 2 tablespoons oil

1 large onion roughly diced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 cloves garlic crushed

1 tablespoons grated fresh ginger

400g (14oz) crushed tomatoes

¾ cup coconut cream

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Half a lemon or lime squeezed

150g (5oz) fresh spinach roughly chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander

How to do it

1. Heat the oil in a large wok or heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft (translucent, not brown). Then add the spices and ginger, and cook while stirring for about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and stir around for about a minute – don’t let the garlic burn.

2. Add some of the chicken – just enough pieces so they do not overlap (slide the chicken pieces inside the onions so they make full contact with the surface of the pan). Cook each side of each piece until they are just browned. Remove the chicken pieces and repeat the process until all the chicken is browned.

3. Add the tomato and coconut cream to the pan, stir and bring to a boil. Add all the chicken pieces, cover the wok/pan, and turn down the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the thickest piece is cooked through.

4. Add the sugar, lime/lemon juice and spinach, and stir together until the spinach has wilted – 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the fresh coriander.

Serve with white or brown rice.

Serves about 6.