Orange Couscous with Cranberries and Cashews

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I realized while typing out this recipe that it would make a very festive Christmas side dish. And here we are on the first 80+ degree day of summer! You don’t have to wait for Christmas to make this couscous. Dotted with green onions, sweet dried cranberries, and roasted cashews, and tossed in a maple-orange vinaigrette, it’s light and fresh and perfect year-round! I served it with Parmesan and panko crusted thin-cut pork chops and steamed green beans. It would be excellent with chicken kebabs or grilled shrimp or fish or just about anything.

Orange Couscous with Cranberries and Cashews

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup couscous (I used whole wheat)
1 cup water or low-sodium chicken/vegetable broth
zest of 1/2 orange
2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. pure maple syrup
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup roasted cashews, roughly chopped
2-3 green onions, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Put the couscous in a medium bowl. In a very small saucepan, bring the broth and a pinch of salt to a boil over high heat, then pour it over the couscous. Tightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand until the couscous is tender and the broth is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Gently scrape and fluff the couscous with a fork and serve as is (stir in a little butter or olive oil, if you like).

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, maple syrup, and oil, then season with salt and pepper.

3. Pour the dressing over the warm couscous and gently toss to combine. Add the cranberries, cashews, and scallions and gently toss again. Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve.

Serves 4.

(Adapted from Keepers)

By in Sides, Uncategorized ·

Basmati Rice Pilaf with Currants and Almonds

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Here’s the promised basmati rice recipe to accompany the Middle Eastern Chicken Kebabs. What makes this rice so special? Well, first it’s sauteed in a bit of butter, onion, garlic, and spices. And after being simmered until fluffy, you toss in some dried fruit (I chose currants) and golden toasted almonds. Not your ordinary rice. So much better. Pictured with roasted broccoli on the side.

Basmati Rice Pilaf with Currants and Almonds

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups white basmati rice, rinsed
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onions
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup dried fruit, such as currants, raisins or finely chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted until golden

DIRECTIONS

1. Melt butter in a pot over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring regularly, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and garlic to sautéed onions and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds longer. Add rice to pot, and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. Add water, salt and pepper to rice and return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until all liquid is absorbed, 15-18 minutes. Off heat, remove lid, and sprinkle dried fruit over rice (do not mix in). Place lid loosely over pot and let stand 10 minutes. Toss in toasted almonds, fluff rice with a fork, then serve.

Serves 6.

(Adapted from Once Upon a Chef)

By in Sides ·

Cuban Rice with Black Beans

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Here’s the recipe for the Cuban Rice with Black Beans to accompany the Slow-Cooker Cuban Pork I posted last. I prefer this combo of beans and rice to serving them separately. But that’s me. I didn’t strictly follow the directions on this one because it asks you to throw in the whole can of beans- juices and all. To put it politely, my digestive system reacts poorly to beans that aren’t thoroughly rinsed. So I drained and rinsed and then replaced the bean juice with chicken broth in order to keep the liquid ratio the same. The result was still super flavorful and the texture was perfect- the rice just didn’t turn as black. If you want dark rice, don’t drain the beans.

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Cuban Rice with Black Beans

INGREDIENTS

2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (I used all red pepper)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked long grain white rice (If you use brown you’ll have to increase the cooking time accordingly)
15 oz. can black beans (Goya recommended- don’t drain, or if you do drain and rinse then replace the drained liquid with chicken broth)
1 1/2 cups water or homemade or low-sodium chicken broth (I used 1 cup broth + 1/2 cup water)
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 bay leaf
pinch oregano
salt and pepper, to taste (I used 3/4 tsp. kosher salt)

DIRECTIONS

1. In a heavy medium sized pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add onion, peppers, and garlic and saute until soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add rice, beans, water, cumin, bay leaf, oregano and salt and pepper. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice absorbs most of the water and just barely skims the top of the rice.

2. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, shut the heat off and let it sit, covered another 5 minutes. Fluff and serve.

Serves 6.

(Adapted from Skinnytaste)

By in Beans, Sides ·

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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Some time ago I discovered the trick to crispier baked sweet potato fries and haven’t looked back. The secret ingredient? Cornstarch. A little bit of cornstarch makes a big difference in crispiness! The other key to success is spacing out your fries on the baking sheet. If they’re toppling all over each other (as pictured- for the photo I combined two pans into one- not helpful, I know), they’ll steam and turn soggy. And they can be seasoned with whatever spices you love. My go-to mix is cumin + coriander + garlic powder + smoked paprika and I serve them with a chipotle ranch sauce for dipping. Yum.

Crispy Baked Sweet Potato Fries

INGREDIENTS

sweet potatoes
2 tsp. cornstarch per sweet potato
1 Tbsp. olive oil (or melted coconut oil) per sweet potato
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

spices:
cumin + coriander + garlic powder + smoked paprika (my favorite combination)
cinnamon-sugar
cayenne
Cajun seasoning
adobo seasoning
curry powder, etc.

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a large baking sheet with foil (coated with nonstick spray), parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat.  Make sure the potatoes aren’t too crowded. I used 2 medium sized baking sheets for 2 potatoes.

2. Wash and peel the potatoes. Cut off the ends. Cut the potatoes into thin slices about 1/4 inch wide.  Place in a large bowl and toss with cornstarch. You want a nice thin coating.  Discard the extra cornstarch. Place potatoes back into the bowl and add the olive oil and seasoning(s) of choice. (I often just mix everything right on the baking sheet.)

3. Line the sweet potatoes onto the baking sheet.  Try not to crowd them or else they won’t bake, they’ll just steam.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning occasionally, until soft in the center and crisp on the outside. Serve immediately.

(Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

By in Sides, Vegetables ·

Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan

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Roasted Cauliflower revisited- with the addition of a sweet onion, garlic, thyme, and Parmesan. Another way to make your veggies taste like candy. If you really don’t like onions, go ahead and leave them out. But they caramelize and crisp and are arguably the best part. I can’t actually remember if I added the Parmesan partway through cooking (as the recipe instructs) or at the end. (I tend to skim recipes and miss such details- oops.) No matter, either way it’ll probably taste the same.

Roasted Cauliflower with Parmesan

INGREDIENTS

1 head cauliflower
1 medium onion, sliced (optional- I used a sweet onion)
4 thyme sprigs (or a sprinkling of dried thyme)
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
~1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (or Pecorino)
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut 1 head cauliflower into florets; toss on a large rimmed baking sheet with the onion, thyme, garlic, and olive oil; season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast, tossing occasionally, until almost tender, 15- 20 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, toss to combine, and roast until cauliflower is tender, 5-10 minutes longer.

Serves 4.

(Adapted from Bon Appetit)

By in Sides, Vegetables ·