BULGUR AND CHICKPEA SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS

I’ve been on a bulgur kick lately. It is such a nice grain, cooks in less than 10 minutes and you can enjoy it warm or cold. In the version I share today, it showed up as salad, with a very simple lemony dressing with fresh mint from our own garden. Disclaimer: I take zero credit for any fruits, legumes or herbs grown in our backyard. The husband is the gardener in charge, and for that I am forever grateful. I am a certified mint-killer.

BULGUR AND CHICKPEA SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup bulgur
1/2 tsp salt
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/4 tsp paprika
2 Tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
fresh mint leaves
fresh pomegranate seeds
1/2 preserved lemon, cut in small pieces (optional)
salt and pepper for final seasoning

Cook the bulgur in a large volume of salted water for 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse briefly with cold water. Reserve.

Place the drained chickpeas in a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle some paprika and microwave for 15 seconds or so. Let them cool briefly.  Add the chickpeas to the bulgur in a serving bowl. Add mint leaves to taste, drizzle olive oil and lemon juice, mix everything well. Finally add pieces of preserved lemons (if using) and pomegranate seeds. Adjust seasoning, and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The little step of microwaving the chickpeas for just a few seconds with a touch of spice is absolutely worth it. I read about it a long time ago and now I just incorporate in every recipe that calls for canned chickpeas. It brightens up the flavor, and since it is such a short “cooking” time, it does not affect the texture. It exorcises  that “tinned” feel out of them.

I added preserved lemons because I made some from scratch back in April and this salad was a perfect opportunity to bring them to play. You can omit or add orange segments together with the pomegranate seeds. Leftovers keep quite well, in fact I think the salad was better at lunch next day. I added a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a touch of additional salt. This will be in our regular rotation, I am sure.

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PEARLED FARRO WITH ASPARAGUS COINS

A few years ago I posted a pasta recipe using tiny little asparagus coins as a component of the sauce. The other day I decided to roast them and ended up with a side dish that won me over. Added bonus: it is super fast to prepare. Pearled farro cooks a lot faster than the regular grain, and I did not detect any loss in flavor or texture. If you find it in your grocery store, stock on a few bags.

PEARLED FARRO WITH ROASTED ASPARAGUS COINS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

3/4 cup pearled farro
asparagus stalks, cut in very small rounds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Herbes de Provence
squirt of lemon juice

Heat oven to 420F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the farro, cook for 15 to 20 minutes. If you like it with a bit more bite, check at 15 minutes and if it’s done to your liking, drain and reserve.

Meanwhile coat the asparagus coins with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence, amounts are flexible, just go with your intuition. For a regular size asparagus bundle I used 1/4 tsp Herbes de Provence.

Place the asparagus in a single layer in a baking dish covered with aluminum foil to facilitate clean-up. Roast for about 15 minutes moving it around the baking sheet.  When they are done, squirt some lemon juice, adjust seasoning and mix with the warm farro.  Serve right away. Leftovers are great also. Even cold as a salad.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Many variations are possible here. If you don’t want to roast the asparagus coins, simply sautee them quickly in olive oil plus all the spices. Because the coins are so tiny, they cook very fast, so doing the top of the stove method, they can be ready in 5 minutes for sure. The roasted version has slightly more intense flavor. The second picture shows a similar approach (top of the stove), but using zucchini. Also very delicious.

I use farro a lot, but was a bit unsure about trying the pearled version, thinking it would not be nearly as good. I was wrong. It is a way to make farro a suitable option for a fast side dish after a busy day in the lab.

I hope you’ll give this simple recipe a try.

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FREEKEH WITH ZUCCHINI AND ALMONDS

I tend to fall in love with things and get into an obsessive-compulsive mode about them. Right now freekeh is a good example. I’ve been making it regularly, so finding news ways to prepare it is always on my mind. If you have never tried this grain, I’d say it is a mixture of farro and barley. Hearty, tasty, and goes well with many main dishes. You can find two types of freekeh, whole grain and cracked. The main difference is the time it takes to cook them. If you go for whole grain, be prepared for 40 to 45 minutes cooking time, whereas the cracked form will be ready in 20, 25 minutes maximum. In our neck of the woods, it is easier to find cracked, so that’s what I normally go for.

FREEKEH WITH ZUCCHINI AND ALMONDS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch pieces
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 stalk celery, finely diced
salt and pepper
3/4 cup cracked freekeh
2 cups water
toasted slivered almonds to taste
fresh dill to taste
whole yogurt for serving (optional)

Sautee the zucchini. On a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the zucchini pieces seasoned with salt and pepper and allow it to get golden brown before moving the pieces around. When it’s tender and fragrant, squeeze a little lemon juice and reserve.

Cook the freekeh. In a sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon (or a bit less) olive oil, add the celery seasoned with salt and pepper, and saute until fragrant. Add the freekeh, cook a minute or two, then add the water. Cover the pan and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let it sit in the pan for five minutes with the heat off.

Add the freekeh to the skillet with the zucchini, warm everything together briefly, add toasted almonds, and fresh dill. Serve immediately with whole milk yogurt on the side, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I realize that I am asking you to use one large skillet and one sauce pan to make this recipe. In theory, you could saute the zucchini in the sauce pan, remove it, and proceed to cook the celery and freekeh in the same pan. However, I prefer a very large surface to get the zucchini perfectly cooked. And in case you don’t know, I love doing dishes, so one more pan to wash has never been a problem for me. I know… crazy, right?

This turned out very good, and almost a complete meal, actually. We enjoyed it with roast chicken, but next day my lunch was a nice serving of freekeh with a fried egg on top. Maybe not the most gorgeous picture in the blogosphere, but trust me, it was tasty…

If you never cooked freekeh, I urge you to give it a try. It is a nice alternative to rice, and you can also enjoy it cold in salads, or as addition to soups. Pretty versatile item.

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MILLET COUSCOUS WITH ROASTED CARROTS

Saw this recipe in Bon Appetit.  Made it that same evening for dinner. Lightning speed. Not that usual for me, but I had all the ingredients and was also anxious to cook millet for the first time. One of our grocery stores carries a very nice assortment of grains, seeds & flours in bulk. It is quite convenient when I feel like baking a special bread but do not want to carry home 1kg of oat flour or some other exotic being.  Millet was one of the goodies I brought home from a recent visit.   This recipe, a perfect way to welcome it in our kitchen.

MilletCouscous3

 

MILLET COUSCOUS WITH ROASTED CARROTS
(from Bon Appetit)

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (I used a bit less)
1 cup millet
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 + ¼ cups chicken broth
6 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
¼ cup roasted almonds, chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems (I omitted, did not have any around)

Heat oven to 400°. Toss carrots with 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add millet and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until millet is tender, 25–35 minutes (it took me closer to 35 minutes).

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil (I used about 1 teaspoon instead) in a small skillet over low heat; cook almonds and cayenne, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Serve millet topped with carrots, cilantro, and almond mixture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

comosite
When I told Phil we were not having “real couscous”, he was a bit surprised. It looks almost exactly the same as semolina couscous. It takes longer to cook, though, and has a firmer texture. The flavor is slightly more “nutty”, but still quite mild.  I imagine most people will love it, there’s really nothing not to like about it. Plus, like your regular couscous, it will absorb the flavors of everything else you cook with it. Use  a flavorful chicken or veggie stock if you have it around.  The roasted carrots and sautéed almonds turn it into almost a complete meal.  Of course, we enjoyed it with a nice roast chicken, just because… Full disclosure: the roast chicken was prepared at the grocery store.  And I am not even slightly ashamed to admit it.

On a slight tangent,  a couple of years ago I read a pretty good article written by one of the popular celebrity chefs, I don’t remember who it was,  it was not Thomas Keller, but some other star almost as bright.  Anyway, he went on and on about never buying a roast chicken from a rotisserie. That he could have a much better dinner by buying the chicken (organic, of course), sticking it in the oven with just a sprinkle of salt, pepper, a lemon or two quickly placed inside the bird.  I am all for cooking from scratch, but I must say a chicken ready for me on my way home from work is very handy. It makes life so much easier! I don’t have to deal with the raw chicken, I don’t have to wait for my oven to warm up to temperature (it does take a while with our potent Supernova), and I can concentrate on making a quick and easy side dish such as couscous, or from now on, millet…   So, yes, 8 times out of 10, I reach for a rotisserie chicken.  And 6 times out of 10, I resort to cheese pre-shredded, from a bag.

Confession: good for the food blogger 😉

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB: BARLEY RISOTTO WITH PEAS

Dear readers, when I got the Secret Recipe Club assignment for this month I went into full-happy-dance mode!   It turns out that I’ve been paying attention to Chocolate and Chillies for a looong time, and hoping I would be paired with it, to stalk it real good. And that is exactly what I did.  Asiya, the hostess of Chocolate and Chillies, has a ton of recipes that entice me.   She was born and raised in Toronto, where she now lives with her husband and two kids, but her family is originally from India. Her blog features recipes with a heavy Indian influence, and to make it even better,  many are her own family recipes.  I love it!  I bookmarked many options, but five were the strongest contenders.  Here they are: Butter Chicken (lower in fat than regular versions),  Mummy’s Tomato Spiced Rice,  Whole Wheat Banana Muffins, and…  Afghani Kebob with Tomato Gravy.  The fifth? It’s the one I ended up making:  Barley Risotto with Peas and Asparagus.  Oh, my….  what an amazing dish this was! I made a slight adaptation because the asparagus looked very sad at the grocery store that day, so I went with carrots.

Barley Risotto with Peas

BARLEY RISOTTO WITH PEAS AND CARROTS
(slightly modified from Chocolate and Chillies)

4-6 cups of vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 leek, chopped
1 cup pearled barley
2 carrots, diced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp  freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup light cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Boil the vegetable stock.  Reduce heat to medium-low to keep it warm.Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add the minced shallot and leek.  Saute 5-7 minutes until  tender.  Add barley and stir for a minute so that everything is well coated.  Add 1 cup broth and stir until most of it has been absorbed.  Continue to add 1/2 cup hot vegetable broth at a time, stirring until it has been absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup.
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While the barley is being cooked, microwave the pieces of carrots with a little water until almost tender, and reserve. Or you can cook them on top of the stove in a little salted water, and drain them well.
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After 15 minutes of cooking the barley, add carrots and peas.  Stir in salt and pepper.  Continue to add water until barley is cooked through.
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Remove from heat.  Add lemon juice, cream cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.
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ENJOY!
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                                                                  to print the recipe, click here
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BarleyRisotto1

Comments:  This was such a creamy, comforting dish, I love the traditional risotto made with Arborio rice, but this version with barley won my heart!  I definitely want to make it with asparagus to celebrate the arrival of Spring and with it that infusion of life and joy and all things sunny and beautiful and gorgeous and warm into my personal equation.  Can you detect my excitement as February says goodbye?  I bet you can.

served11
The barley risotto was served with grilled pork tenderloin, but for the next couple of days the risotto all by itself was my lunch.  It tends to dry out a little bit in the fridge, but a little squirt of lemon juice brings it back nicely.  I am not sure this could work for a risotto fritter like a regular rice risotto would, it seems to me that the grains of barley would be hard to keep together, but if anyone tries it and succeeds, let me know.

Asiya, I had a blast stalking your blog and picking a recipe to cook from!

For those interested in following the cooking adventures of the other Secret Recipe members in my group, poke the cute blue frog at the end of the post, and have fun!

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