Archive | April, 2014

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

Israeli couscous salad with cumin orange vinaigrette

Do you ever feel a bit like a mad scientist when you cook? Man, I do, especially when concocting a new recipe. I had the tastiest salad yesterday at The Assembly, a new restaurant in Santa Cruz. So me being me, I had to deconstruct it and create my own version that will strike awe in the heart (and mouth) of my carnivore…and also at a baby shower I’m co-hosting. I don’t have a picture of myself creating things in my kitchen, but I’m pretty sure I look and sound like a cross between Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein and Monty Burns. “Mmm, yessss. Blend cumin and orange – no one will expect such a bewitching combination! Make the miniature Saturns of quinoa orbit the pearls of Israeli couscous. Yeessss. Mix in some golden beets, sweet currants, kale. And kumquats, yes kumquats, to make it come ALIVE!! Mooohahahahah!”

Although when my friends who do not cook see me in full-on chef-it-up kitchen-concoction mode, they stare at me as if I look like this:

preparing for alien onslaught

But I digress. Don’t worry, no lab coat is needed to make this healthy, delicious, elegant salad. It’s actually quite simple to make, and it’s versatile too – it’s perfect as a meal or a side-dish. Trust me – you’ll love this delicious salad. It’s got everything: it’s both savory and sweet, it’s got a bit of crunch, there are earthy flavors and bright citrus highlights, it’s packed with protein, complex carbs, fruits, veggies, everything!

When you make this salad, be sure to serve it by holding the bowl high above your head and shouting “IT’S ALIVE!!”  🙂

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

From fridge to table: 15-20 minutes*
Serves: 6-8

Salad:

1 cup Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous)
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried currants or chopped dates
10 kumquats, rolled and finely diced*
2 cups finely sliced kale
1 large cooked golden beet, peeled and chopped **

* Cool tip about kumquats: roll them between your fingers to release oil held in the kumquat’s skin. You’ll see that it takes on a shiny sheen. This immediately takes the bitterness out of the skin so you can eat the kumquat whole. Pretty cool, huh?

how to prep a kumquot

Orange-Cumin Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

** There are tons of ways to cook beets, so if you’ve got your favorite method, go for it! If not, here’s an easy way: scrub the beets, rinse them off and put them in a casserole dish. Coat with a little oil, cover with foil and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the Israeli couscous according to package (I boil 1 ¼ cup water with a pinch of salt, add the 1 cup of couscous, cover and simmer for 10 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package (I combine 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until water is absorbed, about 12 minutes). Once the couscous and quinoa are done, fluff them to cool, then combine them in the bowl with the other salad ingredients.

Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a lidded jar, shake well, then stir into the salad, to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Israeli couscous salad with orange cumin vinaigrette

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Flower-Power Salad with Golden Beets, Grapes, Toasted Hazelnuts and Lemon Vinaigrette

Flower power golden beet salad

It’s spring, which means it’s time to find new ways to dupe my husband into eating all the veggies I’m harvesting from our garden. Luckily I found a secret weapon: edible flowers!  When you see something as pretty as a purple viola or bright red nasturtium on your plate, it draws your attention…and totally distracts John from the beets I’m tricking him into eating. Ha ha!

Now you and I know that freshly roasted golden beets – which are rapidly rolling into farmer’s markets and grocery stores – are simply delicious and have a slightly sweet, mellow flavor. And they’re one of the only sources for an awesome phytonutrient called betalains, which have anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties, not to mention vital free-radical-fighting antioxidants. And since there’s evidence that betalains help prevent cancer, eating beets is a tasty way to stay healthy, especially with this beautiful and delicious salad! But to John, beets are classified as “Weird Vegetables” in his “Never Eat That” food file. So naturally, I made it my mission to trick him into eating beets…and he LOVED this salad!

Being the devious cook that I am, I also decided to slip in some grapes and toasted hazelnuts to give this lovely spring salad some additional nutrients and protein, and a nice little crunch. Tossed with a light and zesty lemon vinaigrette, this salad will not only wow your friends and family with its beauty, but also with its refreshing and unique flavors and heath benefits. And yes, you will totally get to trick ‘weird vegetable’ haters into eating beets, which is both fun and yummy!

Cimeron’s Flower-Power Salad with Golden Beets, Grapes, Hazelnuts and Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves: 8
1 head red butter lettuce, or 7 cups baby mixed greens
10 small golden beets (or 4 big ones), scrubbed and ends trimmed off
1 cup seedless grapes, halved (or if you want to get really fancy, use tiny champagne grapes)
¾ cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
a small handful of edible flowers (such as pansies, violas, calendula, or nasturtium)
For the vinaigrette:
¼ cup white lemon balsamic vinegar (I adore the one made by 11Olives.com. But if you don’t have some handy, you can substitute plain white balsamic vinegar mixed with 1 heaping teaspoon of lemon zest)
1 tsp minced shallot
¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
A pinch of salt
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup canola oil
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line a small baking sheet with aluminum foil, spray lightly with oil, then seal up the beets in the foil. Bake until the beets a bit soft to the touch – about an hour. Cool until handleable then rub off the skins with a dish cloth or paper towel. Slice beets and refrigerate until cool.
To  make the vinaigrette, whisk together all the ingredients except the oil. Then slowly drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously.
Toss all the salad ingredients together – except the flowers – with your desired amount of dressing. Garnish with flowers…the brighter the better to distract any beet-averse husbands, wives, kids or friends. 🙂
Serve immediately and enjoy!
Flower power golden beet salad