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.

Early Summer Panzanella + 5 Perfect Picnic Salads

esp705bI love when things fall into place without much effort, especially when it comes to a meal.  I didn’t stare at our CSA bounty this week, wondering what the hell I should make, anxious that somehow the beautiful produce would sit in our crisper untouched.  Bright green English peas and peppery arugula graced our share this week.  Basil and thyme wildly grow in our garden, thanks to the daily rain and cool temperatures.  (Summer can’t decide if she wants to stay.)  I purchased fresh asparagus and lemons a couple of days prior for a meal that never happened.  All of this produce ready and waiting for Heidi Swanson’s spring panzanella recipe.  The calendar says summer, but not here, not yet.  So, I took advantage of what I had available to me and made one more “spring” meal.

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The peas, asparagus and arugula harmoniously come together with the pancetta.  Chunks of hearty, toasted bread soak up the flavors of the garlic, shallot and thyme.  A few good squeezes of fresh lemon juice, a generous sprinkling of sea salt and basil make this the kind of salad you eat and share all season long.

Early Summer Panzanella

Serves 6 as a side-dish, 4 as a main-dish

Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Ingredients:

1 lb loaf of crusty, day-old, bread cut into 1 inch cubes (I used an Italian loaf from our favorite bakery. Anything will work.)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves from sprig only

kosher salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch asparagus, cut into pieces

2 cups peas, either fresh or frozen will work (I used fresh.)

4 handfuls of arugula, tough stems removed

juice of one lemon

sea salt

fresh ground black pepper

4 ounces of pancetta, cooked and crumbled

1/4 cup small basil leaves

Directions:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F.  In a large bowl toss together bread, garlic, shallot, thyme, salt and olive oil.  Dump bread mixture on to a sheet pan in one even layer.  Toast in oven until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes.

Using a cold skillet, pour in a few tablespoons of water and olive oil and a pinch or two of salt.  Turn up the heat.  When the water just starts to bubble add the asparagus and cover for about a minute.  Next add the peas and cook uncovered for a couple of minutes or until bright green and heated through.   Remove from heat.

Place bread crumb mixture in a large bowl and pour the asparagus and peas and remaining pan juices all over the bread.   Add arugula, juice of one lemon, basil and crumbled pancetta.  Toss gently.  Season to taste with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Tastes best the day it is made.  Enjoy!

5 Perfect Picnic Salads You Can’t Miss!

Buy the fresh cherries that are on sale now and make Not Without Salt’s couscous salad with fresh cherries.  This salad will be a hit at any picnic this summer!

If you need a healthy and gluten-free salad to bring to your next summer gathering, check out the kitchn’s brown rice salad with apples, walnuts and cherries.

Need a new pasta salad recipe?  Check out Smitten Kitchen’s summer pea and roasted red pepper pasta salad or the Pioneer Woman’s pesto pasta salad.

Bacon, green onions and a generous amount of cheddar cheese come together with russet potatoes for a loaded baked potato salad that will have friends and family asking for seconds and the recipe!  Thank you Foodie Crush!

And this!!!!

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death.

It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

It is so ordered.”