Sunday, July 15, 2012

Recipe: Israeli Cous Cous Salad with Roast Golden Beets, Zucchini, and Goat Cheese

I live in south Louisiana, and it's hot.  The only time it's not hot is when it rains; then after the rain it's a steam bath.  On the upside of this dreary weather, my skin is not dry and the produce at the market is amazing.  I live for the farmers market! I get the pleasure of shopping for my business and hand picking all my fruits and vegetables. At home in the evening, after cooking in the shop all day, I hardly want to turn the oven on.  This type of salad is great to make ahead of time.  I roast the beets and keep them in the refrigerator.  The salad comes together fairly quickly and is a great vegetarian main dish or can serve as a side.  I've been trying to eat pasta only on the weekends, eating mostly seafood and vegetables during the week.  I'm working on a new blog which will chronicle the way I eat at home a bit more accurately.  Gourmet Girl will remain and I will post all the yummy things I make at work in my business, Gourmet Girls.  I'll update the new website, Gourmet Girl - Healthy Every Day soon... stay posted!

Israeli cous cous is a large version of regular cous cous, basically a little grain of wheat which is then rolled around in semolina flour.  What I love in particular about Israeli cous cous in this recipe is that it's cooked in chicken broth and takes on all its flavor.  Instead of starting out with a rather bland noodle, you get a tasty little morsel. It's so hot in south Louisiana right now that salads are what's on my menu.  I will say that I did try this while is was still warm and it was very good.  This is the kind of salad you can keep in the icebox and snack on (on the weekends only, of course).

I mix the goat cheese into the salad while still warm, which melts the cheese and evenly distributes the flavor.  If you prefer the goat cheese in chunks, cool all the ingredients before combining them.  I used a light tasting French vinaigrette and added extra flavor by using fresh lemon-thyme.

Israeli Cous Cous Salad with Roast Golden Beets and Goat Cheese

2 cups Israeli Cous Cous
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon-thyme leaves
2 cups cubed roasted beets
1 cup sliced zucchini
1/2 cup French Vinaigrette, (my recipe is under the watermelon salad post in the index)
4 oz. goat cheese
Sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

1. Place the cous cous and chicken broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to simmer and continue to cook until the liquid has evaporated.

2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Recipe: Watermelon and Feta Salad with Cucumbers and Mint

I made this salad at work this week and just had to share with you.  I've seen many versions of it, but what remains consistent is the watermelon and cheese combination.  My father says it reminds him of my great uncle, who used to eat feta with watermelon as a snack.  Clearly it's a good combination which has stood the test of time. Pairing fruit with cheese is a favorite of mine too. I made a red wine French vinaigrette for the salad. It's a little tangy with a good helping of Dijon mustard to emulsify the dressing.  I have mint growing in my garden and thought it would complement the feta- refreshing and crisp. 

I've been using watermelon often lately and made these little disks by cutting out a block of melon.  Shave the rind off with a sharp knife, then use a fluted or straight-sided cookie cutter to cut through the melon.  Slice the rounds into disks, about 1/4" thick.  Using the cookie cutter for the melon is also a great idea for making a fruit tray for a children's party using fun shapes, maybe animals or cars.  Baby or wedding showers would be really cute with heart or flower shaped watermelon slices- oh, the possibilities! 

I like using seedless english cucumbers.  If you use regular cucumbers, which are great at this time of year, quarter them lengthwise and seed them before putting in the salad.  The onions are little Creoles, but if those aren't available, a shallot or red onion would be an ideal substitute.  

Watermelon Salad with French Sheep's milk Feta

Watermelon disks (read above)
Cucumbers, seeded and sliced
French Feta Cheese
Fresh Mint
Creole Onion, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

French Vinaigrette:

In a small jelly jar combine:

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or red onion

Once all the ingredients are in the jar, tightly screw the lid on and shake until emulsified.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Recipe: Summer Peach and Blackberry Tartines

Summer Peach and Blackberry Tartines with Gorgonzola Dolce, Ricotta and Prosciutto.

Summer is my favorite time of the year in the kitchen.  With so many fruit and vegetables at their prime, cooking is really enjoyable- the possibilities are endless.  The whole concept of cooking seasonally appeals to me both at home and at work. I have been trying to purchase all the produce I use for my catering business, Gourmet Girls, at the local farmer's market.  Purchasing from a wholesale purveyor just really did not work for me.  I was entirely too picky about the way my produce looked and found the only way to truly get every single tomato, apple or head of lettuce to look the way I wanted it to was to hand pick it myself.   I enjoy starting my day by going to the market, seeing what is available and planning my menus from there.  One of the services I provide at Gourmet Girls is dinners for take-out.   I'm lucky enough to have a group of clients who pretty much let me make whatever I choose.  This brings seasonal cooking to a whole new level- whatever I select the mornings I go to the market ends up on their dinner plate.  Peaches are at the peak of their season in South Louisiana right now, and this weekend I am the guest chef at Redstick Farmer's Market - peaches are what's on the menu.

I am making a dessert, Tres Leches cake with peaches which is then topped with billowy meringue for the farmer's market demonstration.  I also wanted to make a savory dish with peaches, and since tartines are a favorite of mine, I came up with a few ideas.  I used ricotta and gorgonzola dolce as the spread, layered with prosciutto or serrano ham, a little honey drizzle, freshly cracked black pepper, fresh thyme and basil and topped with ripe blackberries and peaches.  Last week I made them with fresh figs, goat cheese, lemon thyme and drizzled them with a balsamic vinegar reduction- delicious! Below I've listed a few ideas for inspiration, I hope you enjoy the tartines as much as I do.

Prepare the bread by baking or grilling semi-thin slices of bread drizzled with a little olive or walnut oil.  I love using a boule for large tartines and a baguette for smaller bite size tartines. The large ones are best served on a plate with a fork and knife, while tartines made with a French baguette are the perfect bite size food for your next cocktail party.

I seasonally change the tartine toppings. Right now peaches, cherries, figs and berries are perfect.  When I make peach tartines at work and they won't be served for a while after preparing them, I soak the peach slices in a little lemon juice.  The lemon juice keeps the peaches from discoloring and turning brown.

For the spread, I've used goat cheese, ricotta, gorgonzola dulce, farmhouse cheddar, Brillat Savarin, Camembert, and brie or any triple creme cheese.

Drizzle with honey, champagne vinegar, or a balsamic vinegar reduction.

I love using fresh herbs and try to match those to the fruit.  My favorites right now are lemon thyme, French thyme, basil and rosemary. Lavender blossoms make a great pairing with cherries also.

I season the tartines with freshly cracked black pepper and sometimes sea salt if I think it will enhance the flavors.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

RECIPE: Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

I have a new obsession... it's name is Pinterest.  I am a bulletin board sort person, and while I have many methods of organizing my life like computers, iphones, iclouds and ipads I choose the old fashioned pen and paper sort of way.  This is not to say I don't use my calendar functions, but at work where EVERYTHING I do has to be meticulously organized and at a glance, my bulletin boards are the only way to go. In light of my affinity to bulletin boards, I think Pinterest is one of the most genius inventions in quite some time. Pretty, categorized, online bulletin boards which take my OCD to whole new levels- frankly, it does not get better than that!  My baking board probably has the most pins and is where this delightful little bar came from.  I changed a couple of things in the recipe though (I can't help it!). The recipe I found had ready-made milkmaid caramels in it; I made my own caramel. I tried it with the candies the first time around and decided that I'd rather not have all that artificial stuff in my sugar fix. I also found that when the bars set, those little caramels get a little hard which makes the bars a little messy looking and difficult to cut into perfect little squares. I will post the fleur the sel caramel recipe next, it's super easy to make and eat.... a bit too easy for my own good.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
12 oz. butter, melted and cooled to room temperature (3 sticks)
2 cups light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
4 cups chocolate chips
2 cups caramel with fleur de sel (1 recipe)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
12" x 12" square pan, greased well.
In large mixer bowl, combine the butter and sugars.  Mix at medium speed until fluffy and incorporated.  Add eggs and yolks one at a time, then vanilla and mix until combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.  Add the flour mixture to dough and mix on low speed until incorporated.  Add chocolate chips and mix until combined.
Press half cookie mixture evenly in pan, making sure you cannot see the bottom of the pan.  It's more important to completely cover the bottom of the pan than to only use half of the dough. 
Spread caramel in small clumps keeping it away from the sides of the pan a little. (This makes getting the bars out of the pan a LOT easier). Top with additional cookie dough spreading lightly. It's okay if its not completely covering the caramel.
Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.  
Cool the bars completely, at least 2 hours.  Slice into desired size rectangles or squares. 
The recipe may be halved- use a 9" square pan

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