Posts Tagged ‘bon apetit’

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

In case you aren’t familiar, Israeli couscous is completely different from normal couscous. The regular couscous, which you’ve probably had before, is a middle eastern grain dish, shaped like little tiny dots of pasta. It cooks like rice, and is good for just about anything you’d use rice for. It’s quite tasty, and there are more and more options available in the regular grocery store these days: different flavors, different varieties, different brands. David’s not crazy about it, but Leah and I like couscous a lot.

In contrast, Israeli couscous rather than being made from a grain directly, is just small pearls of pasta. It has a lot in common with Orzo, actually, but the pasta is smaller and completely round.

This recipe, from the Bon Apetit Fast, Easy, Fresh cookbook, was pretty simple to make, but very, flavorful. The cooking method reminds me of a risotto, and maybe that’s why it shouldn’t surprise me that the couscous thickened like a risotto, and took on a sort of creamy texture. The toasted pine nuts added a lot of flavor to the dish as well. We had this with the Valentine’s Day Pork Chops, but I’m sure we’ll make it again. It was really good, and a nice change of pace from our usual repertoire of side dishes.

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Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts
Adapted from Bon Apetit’s Fast, Easy, Fresh Cookbook

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 3 cups (16 ounces) Israeli toasted couscous
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh Italian parsley

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add pine nuts and stir until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in same pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add couscous, cinnamon stick, and 2 bay leaves and stir until couscous browns slightly, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add broth, wine,  and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until couscous is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and pine nuts. Season with black pepper. Transfer to serving dish.

Note: As I was making this recipe, I noticed a similarity in ingredients to how we make our risotto, and decided to sub the white wine for a portion of the broth. It turned out really well.

Valentine’s Day Pork Chops

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Last year for Valentine’s Day, David and I stayed in and I cooked for him. We were newly engaged, in the process of planning a wedding, and as a consequence, pretty broke. So we skipped the presents and just spent a quiet night together, but I made David choose the menu. (That sounds like a gift–to let him choose what special dish I would make for him–but if you know us at all, you know that it’s simply not true. We both HATE to pick what’s for dinner!)

David chose this recipe from Bon Apetit magazine: Veal Chops with Roasted Shallots, Arugula, and Soft Polenta.

At first, I thought he was kidding. Veal?! He wants veal? I don’t know how to cook that! Does he even like to eat that? I thought. And really–Shallots? Polenta? It seemed awfully complex, as well as outside of our normal culinary experience.

But then, shouldn’t a special dinner be, well, special? Yes, it should. So I decided to give it a try. I made my grocery list and headed to Dominick’s, where I learned that Veal is expensive! The whole idea of this dinner in was to save money, and by the time I bought polenta, shallots, arugula, grape tomatoes, fresh thyme and everything else I needed, I couldn’t stomach paying $19 for two veal chops, especially when I wasn’t even sure that we liked veal. So instead, I made pork chops.

I’m sure that’s not the same. I’m sure that’s not what the author of this recipe had in mind. But I’m also sure that it was delicious. I’ve made this recipe several times since last Valentine’s Day, with thick, meaty pork chops, and it’s turned out great every time.

Valentine’s Day Pork Chops
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

  • 1 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 4 2-inch-thick boneless pork chops (each about 8 ounces)
  • 18 small shallots, peeled, halved
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 12-ounce package grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup drained capers plus 1 tablespoon caper brine reserved from jar

1. Whisk 3/4 cup oil and lemon juice in small bowl to blend. Mix thyme, salt, and pepper in another small bowl. Rub thyme mixture all over pork chops; place in glass baking dish. Pour oil-lemon marinade over; let stand 15 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine shallots, vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup oil in medium roasting pan; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until shallots are browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes to shallots and roast until tomatoes are soft and browned, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Add capers and 1 tablespoon reserved brine and stir to blend.

3. Meanwhile, heat large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Drain veal chops and transfer marinade to heavy small saucepan. Add pork chops to skillet and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork to desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium.

4. Bring reserved oil-lemon marinade to boil; boil 2 minutes. Place 1 veal chop on each of 4 plates. Divide shallot-tomato mixture among plates. Serve Polenta alongside. Drizzle with oil-lemon marinade. Garnish with arugula and serve.

Note: This recipe turned out to be a great go-to for a special dinner. I’ve served this with homemade soft polenta, quick cooking polenta, and most recently, store-bought polenta slices, gently fried in extra virgin olive oil until the edges are crisp. The thyme brings a nice flavor to the chops, for sure, but I’ve also tried it with fresh parsley or fresh rosemary, and both have worked well. Clearly, this is a versatile recipe. Don’t be scared of the capers, either. Even if you think you don’t like them on their own, they go very well with the roasted vegetable mixture here.