Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Kind Diet

I just purchased Alicia Silverstone's new book, The Kind Diet, and I cannot put it down. I have not completely read through the entire book yet but I have been jumping around in excitement and have already dabbled into some of her recipes tweaking things here and there, because, well, that's just what I do... Last night I made a version of her Radicchio Pizza with Truffle Oil. I turned it into an appetizer by using whole wheat small pita bread for "pizza crust" and quartered each small disc into bite-sized pieces. It made for a flavorful crispy bite. The night grew long with wonderful company and a tad too much wine, so I drank her "Cure-All Tea" (made with kukicha, umeboshi plum and shoyu) this morning, which helped to cure my hangover and ease my digestive system. Tonight I tackled her Morroccan Couscous. I couldn't help but think of one of my all-time favorite Moroccan Couscous dishes from Cafe Gitane when I saw this recipe. I added a little "Cafe Gitane/Erin flare" to Alicia's version and came up with something that hit the spot...

Moroccan Couscous

2 cups peeled butternut squash, cut into 1/4" cubes
2 cups yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 cups carrots, cut into 1/4" cubes
1/2 large eggplant, cut into 1/4" cubes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can chickpeas, drained
extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 Tbsp Earth Balance butter
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp saffron threads
1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous
2 scallions, chopped
homemade or store-bought hummus


Cook the couscous according to directions and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat a splash of olive oil and add the garlic, onions, squash, carrots and eggplant. Season with salt and pepper and saute. Cover with a lid until the vegetables being to soften.

In the meantime, bring the vegetable broth to a boil in a saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat, and stir in the butter, cumin, saffron and freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Cover the pan and steep for 15 minutes.

Add the can of chickpeas to the vegetables and saute together until the chickpeas start to brown a the vegetables are cooked through (butternut squash ad eggplant should be easily punctured with a fork).

Transfer the vegetables and chickpea mixture, along with their juices into a large bowl and add the couscous. Bring the vegetable broth back to a boil, then pour over the couscous mixture all at once. Cover tighly with a lid or plate and let sit for 15 minutes. Add the scallions and toss the couscous and vegetables with a fork.

To serve, place a tablespoon of hummus on the bottom of a bowl and top with the warm couscous mixture. Top with a few more scallions and season with crushed red pepper flakes and salt.

Serves 6.

Next time I make this I might try adding some golden raisins or dried apricots and toasted pine nuts, flavors that are in Cafe Gitane's version. Only a few recipes into Alicia's book... I am excited to get through it all!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Winter Kitchen

Nothing says winter comfort like pasta made with fresh ingredients. In any season, the aromas of basil, tomatoes and garlic cooking make any stresses from your day disappear (having a glass of good red wine in hand doesn't hurt either). I couldn't tell you the last time I ate pasta, but occasionally it's just the thing to settle you in and warm you up. The tomato sauce is always the key ingredient in Italian pasta dishes. I learned an incredible and simple sauce while on our honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast this pas fall. I didn't have fresh vine ripened tomato puree on hand (like we used in Italy) but I did have my favorite can of San Marzano diced tomatoes. I used whole wheat thin spaghetti and added shrimp to this dish...

Tomato and Basil Spaghetti with Sauteed Shrimp

whole wheat thin spaghetti
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can San Marzano diced/pureed tomatoes
large shrimp, peeled and deveined
fresh basil, chopped
olive oil
course sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste


In a small sauce pan, add a little olive oil and heat 2 cloves of garlic and basil over high flame. Add the can of tomatoes and bring to a boil. Lower the flame and simmer the sauce for about 10 to 15 minutes.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add a few pinches of salt and the pasta and cook according to directions. Once cooked, strain the water and bring the pasta back to the pot.

Season the shrimp on both sides with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to another medium pan and heat the remaining garlic for a few minutes until you smell a subtle aroma. Add the shrimp, turning once until cooked through ( a few minutes on each side). You may have to do this in a few batches, depending on how many shrimp you have. Set aside.

Toss the spaghetti, tomato sauce and shrimp in the large pot. Serve into bowls and season with crushed red pepper flakes and top with fresh basil.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Black Beans and Rice

Looking through my previous posts, I realize that I have never written about one of my all-time weeknight staples. After a long day and not looking forward to ordering in, black beans and rice is a dish that I go to quite often. I keep the ingredients in my pantry at all times. It's a simple preparation that can be thrown together quickly. Paired with a simple salad of fresh ingredients along with sliced avocado on the is my take on black beans and rice.

Black Beans and Rice

splash of olive oil
I (15-ounce) can black beans (with liquid)
1/2 green pepper, diced
rice (I suggest Uncle Ben's Instant Whole Grain Ready Rice)
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
splash of cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
sea salt
pinch of dried oregano
crushed red pepper flakes, to taste


Cook the rice according to package directions. In a medium pan, heat the olive oil and toss in the onions and garlic for a few minutes. Add the green pepper and a pinch of salt and saute until soft and slightly browned. Add the full can of black beans, pinch of dried oregano, splash of vinegar and a little more salt and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so until some of the liquid is absorbed and the texture is to your liking. Serve over rice with a few slices of avocado and top with crushed red pepper flakes.

Serves about 2.

I think the best part about it is that it makes for incredible left-overs. Top off a salad with some fresh corn and tomatoes for lunch or roll up in a corn tortilla for a vegetarian taco dinner the next night!