Israeli Couscous Salad with Pickled Shallots, Peas and Feta +5 Salads for Sepetember

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Google “go to” and this is what pops up: relied on or frequently sought out in a particular situation.  I know what your thinking.  Why the hell did she google “go to,” seems pretty self-explanatory.  Your right, it is.  Lately, I need affirmation in the most basic of situations from the all-powerful oracle that is Google.  Three kids later and my brain is mush.  With the definition now confirmed, I discovered I have a lot of “go tos” ( is that a word?) especially when it comes to food.  There is my go to chocolate birthday cake, wow this is good mac and cheese, bad day soup, and just had a baby oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  (My list is long, certain foods perfectly matched with particular circumstances are all neatly categorized in my head.  I don’t want to bore you.) 

After making Cook’s Illustrated Israeli Couscous salad with lemon, mint, peas, feta and pickled shallots, I now have a serve to company when needing praise or bring to a cookout and watch it disappear salad. I love when one awesome recipe works well for many occasions.

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I love every piece of this savory salad: the candied pickled shallots, salty feta, peppery arugula, bright lemon juice, unexpected bite of mint, the tender couscous and the sweet peas that just look so pretty sitting next to the purple shallots.  I made this salad many times this summer.  No one complained.  Usually all that remained was a lone slice of shallot, a fallen bit of arugula or a smear of feta.  I relished the empty bowl.  Gotta love a go to.

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Israeli Couscous Salad with Lemon, Mint, Peas, Feta and Pickled Shallots

recipe barely adapted from Cook’s Illustrated July/August 2015

Serves 6

Ingredients for Couscous:

2 cups Israeli couscous

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2+1/2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Using a medium saucepan, heat couscous and oil over medium heat for about 6 minutes or until the grains are golden brown.

Add water and salt, stir. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Stir. Reduce heat to low, cover and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Remove pan from heat and let stand, still covered for a few minutes. Next, grab a baking sheet. Spread the couscous in a single layer and cool. Set aside.

Ingredients for salad:

1/3 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar

kosher salt and pepper

2 shallots, sliced thin

3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more for finishing

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 ounces or 4 cups of baby arugula, roughly chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn (add more mint, if you love it.)

1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed

3/4 cup feta cheese

Directions:

In a small saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Add shallots, stir, cover and remove from heat. Allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Drain and roughly chop shallots. Set aside.

Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, mustard, red pepper flakes, and salt in a large bowl. Add couscous, arugula, mint, peas, 1/2 cup feta and shallots. Toss gently. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a pretty bowl. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of feta. Add a squeeze of lemon juice over the salad. Serve chilled or at room temperature. This salad is best the day it is made, but does make nice leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day. Enjoy!

**Pickle shallots before making couscous to save time. Just set aside until ready to use. Also, cooling the couscous on a baking sheet is key. If you allow it to cool in the bowl it will get mushy. The original recipe called for 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped. If you want some crunch, add them! Worried about a nut allergy? Leave them out.**

5 Salads for September

I head to Cookie + Kate over and over again when I am looking for a feel good salad. Kate’s latest quinoa salad is on my must make list.  Yum!

Tired of zucchini bread? Make Fix Feast and Flair’s cold pasta salad with zucchini, fennel and fresh mozzarella.

Use the last of summer’s peaches for Love & Olive Oil’s peach and roasted vegetable salad.

Need a quick school night meal that even your kids might like?  Check out A Dash of Sanity’s kale and tortellini pasta salad.  I made this a couple of weeks ago and the kids kinda liked it!

Fall is almost here.  When butternut squash is abundant, make What’s Gabby Cooking? roasted butternut squash salad.

Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Enchiladas + 5 Meatless Mains

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Excerpt from dinnertime most days at our house.  Feel free to swap out chicken for anything else that might have some nutritional value.

“Chicken again?!” C groaned.

“Chicken is disgusting. Yuck!” G chimes in.  I clench my jaw, take a deep breath and remind myself they are little.  Little terrors, especially around dinnertime.

“Dip it in ketchup!” Me.

“No.”  Them.

“Three bites or no dessert.” Me again.

“Mac and cheese please!” G. The boy could eat mac and cheese 3 meals a day, everyday.

“Just eat it!” I yell. 

Insert no dessert threat here.

They acquiesce because, just like me, they have a sweet tooth.  After a bite of grilled chicken they gag.  This is where I give up, offer them a small dessert and eat chocolate alone in our pantry.  Where is my mother-of-the-year award?  And so it goes.  Dinnertime is a bust most days at our house, except of course when we have mac and cheese.

Put the chocolate down and make a plan!

In an effort to keep my weekly meals fresh and to serve less chicken, I’ve adapted meatless Mondays and taco Tuesdays.  Oh and I’m bringing back wheatless Wednesdays.  Yup, wheatless Wednesdays was a thing.  In fact, meatless Monday and wheatless Wednesdays started during World War I.  Read more about here.  Thursday through Sunday? Anything goes.

Before meatless Monday rolls around again, I peruse one of my favorite healthy food blogs: The Sprouted Kitchen.  With zucchini now popping up at the market, I choose Sarah’s recipe for roasted zucchini, black bean and goat cheese enchiladas, a meal that is warm, cheesy and, if I’m lucky, kid-friendly.

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Latest excerpt from the witching hour that is dinnertime.

While C and G play in the backyard, I make dinner.  N busies himself with our pots and pans.  I try to ignore the loud clanging sounds that are slowly giving me a headache.  Stay focused!  Make dinner!

The zucchini roasts for 30 minutes and I set it aside to cool.  The black beans, goat cheese, green onions and cooled zucchini are gently tossed together.  I fill each tortilla with a heaping 1/4 cup of the zucchini mixture and placed seam side down in my baking dish.  I pour store-bought enchilada sauce over the top and sprinkle it with a few handfuls of feta cheese. (Cotija cheese will work as well.)  I pop the dish in the oven and bake it at 375F for about 25 minutes.

I do all of this without any interruption.  My kids play independently, never argue or do anything dangerous.  They are angels.  I wish!  I am interrupted constantly and it is frustrating, but occasionally one will say: “It smells good in here Mama,”  and they are back again to angel status.

I pull the enchiladas out of then oven.  The sauce is bubbling, a sure sign the dish is ready.  I place it on the counter, grab my camera and snap a few shots.  I hear splashing and turn to see the baby playing in our dog’s water bowl.

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I have a choice here: ignore the splashing or take the bowl away, continue to take pictures or wrap up for the day.  I let him play and finish shooting.  After my last shot, I remove the bowl and he looses his mind.  Hoping food will emotionally soothe him for a moment, I offer him a bite of the enchilada.  Grunting and gesturing for more, N eats the meatless enchilada with the same gusto as he eats meatballs.

Maybe the delicious smell of the enchiladas lured C and G into the kitchen or maybe it was N’s loud, incessant grunting.  Either way they sat down, lifted their forks and took a bite of something new, and they didn’t complain or gag, because it wasn’t chicken.  However, they did ask: “when can we have mac and cheese again?”

Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean and Goat Cheese Enchiladas

serves 4

recipe barely adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen

Ingredients:

4 medium or 3 large zucchini  1/4′ inch dice (you should have about 4 cups)

3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/4 tsp. garlic salt

4 green onions, finely chopped

1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

4 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled

1 oz. crumbled feta cheese

10-12 whole wheat or corn tortillas depending on much you put in each tortilla

12 oz. red enchilada sauce, store-bought

Optional toppings:

1 bunch of cilantro, chopped

2 avocados

squeeze of lime

salsa

Greek yogurt or sour cream

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 425F and place diced zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and 1 1/4 teaspoon of garlic salt.  Toss with your hands to coat.  Spread zucchini, one layer, using another rimmed baking sheet, if necessary.  You don’t want a crowded pan because the zucchini will steam instead of roast.  We want to roast.  Roast for about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool and lower your oven’s temperature to 375F.

Using a large mixing bowl, add the finely chopped green onions and black beans.  Crumble 4 oz. of goat cheese in the bowl.  Add cooled zucchini and gently toss everything until well combined.  Set aside.

Lightly char each tortilla over the oven burner, about 1 minute each side.   (You can skip this step if you are running short on time.  If you do have time, go for it!  It adds a nice texture to the tortillas.)

In an oven-proof 9×13 pan, pour 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce covering the bottom of the pan.  Take one tortilla and fill it with 1/4 cup of zucchini filling.  Roll it up and place it in the pan seam side down.  Continue with the rest of the tortillas, placing seam side down.  (You may need to squeeze them in and that’s ok!)  Brush the remaining olive oil over the tortillas.  Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with 1 oz. of crumbled feta.

Bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Serve warm with chopped cilantro, sliced avocado and a squeeze of lime.  A dollop of salsa and Greek yogurt is also nice.  The leftovers re-heat well and are great the next day for lunch or an easy dinner.  Enjoy!

5 Meatless Main Links

I recently discovered the food blog Foodness Gracious written by a stay-at-home dad with a ton of love for food.  Gerry’s recipe for sweet peas with linguine and parmesan is on my must make list.

If you love portobello mushrooms, check out The First Mess recipe for banh mi with portobellos and pickled vegetables.

Grill your bounty of garden vegetables this summer and make Pioneer Woman’s grilled veggie burritos.

Instead of ordering pizza this week make Seasons & Suppers heirloom tomato pizza or the grilled vegetable and goat cheese pizza.  I want to eat this right now!