Rainbow Chard with Arabic spices and Israeli couscous

Somewhere over the rainbow,
In my backyard,
Growing green, red, and yellow,
Organic rainbow chard.

My daughter and I invented this recipe together on Mother’s Day. We started in the backyard where we are growing rainbow chard. This grows in red, white and yellow colors.

We chop it, stems and all, and sauté with onions, shallots, garlic, mushrooms and lemon, and add  the Arabic spices sumac and coriander. When the vegetables are tender, we stir into Israeli couscous. We garnish it with cilantro, and toasted pine nuts.

Israeli couscous or Maftoul,  is shaped like small pearls and is chewier than its Moroccan cousin. I cook it in broth Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version). You can make this dish vegan by using the vegetable broth.

If only achieving peace in the Holy Land was as easy as blending Palestinian and Israeli cuisines!

Serves 6 side dishes:

Israeli couscous:
1 ½ cups Israeli couscous
1 ¾ broth (chicken or vegetable)
½ teaspoon salt to taste
2 Tb  lemon juice (Meyer lemon is nice)
Vegetables:
1 bunch chard: 10 -12 leaves and stems, washed
10 mushrooms
2 large cloves shallots, minced
1 onion, quartered and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp sumac
2 tsp zataar or dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup broth
Zest of 1  lemon (Meyer is best)
 
Garnish:
¼  cup pine nuts
2 Tb cilantro leaves
 

Boil 2 cups broth in a medium saucepan with salt and lemon juice. Remove ¼ cup and reserve.

While broth is coming to a boil, toast the Israeli couscous in a  skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently about 7 minutes until golden-brown. Add it to the 1 3/4 cups broth and cover. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes  until couscous is tender.

While  couscous is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Quarter the onion, then slice thinly.  Heat 2 Tb olive oil in heavy frying pan. Add onions, sumac, coriander, zataar or thyme, and salt. Sauté until onions are soft and translucent.

 

Cut mushrooms into quarters and add to onions.

Mince garlic and shallots and add to the onions. Sauté them a few minutes until they turn golden.

Slice the chard stems thinly, and chop the leaves. Add to the onion mixture with the reserved broth, lemon juice and zest. Mix well and cover pan. Cook for 6-8 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until chard softens.

Toss with the Israeli couscous. Garnish with pine nuts and fresh cilantro leaves if desired.

Kale and Bean Soup

Here’s another rainy day soup. I just dreamed it up and made it. Luckily everyone in the family liked it on the first try. The rosemary, thyme and garlic give it a lovely aroma.

I dice the kale, celery, leeks, and red bell pepper in the food processor for faster prep and cooking. Just discard the kale’s thick stems first.

I made this  using dried beans as well. I boiled them in chicken stock for 5 minutes, then transferred them to a crock pot and added the rest of the ingredients. I cooked it on “high” for 3-4 hours until beans and kale are tender. You can also heat the crock pot to high, then let it cook on low while you are at work, or overnight. This way you don’t have to worry about stirring the pot so the cheese won’t stick to the bottom! And homemade beans are so much better than canned ones!

In case there are leftovers, this soup is even better the next day, when flavors have developed even more..

serves 8 bowls

½ gallon (8 cups) homemade chicken or vegetable stock Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version) (you can use boxed stock, but it won’t be as good!)

1 rind Parmesan cheese

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 Tb extra virgin olive oil

2 bay leaves

3 cloves garlic, minced, or 3 frozen cubes garlic

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp fresh rosemary needles, minced

1 tsp dried thyme plus 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

several grinds black pepper

1 or 2 bunches kale, finely chopped. I chop the whole thing, leaves and ribs. I’ve used Dinosaur and curly kale.

1 large leek, white and pale green parts only (use dark green parts in making the stock)

3 ribs celery

1 seeded red bell pepper

1 carrot, cooked in making the stock, chopped

1 15-oz can Great Northern beans OR 1 1/2 cups dry Great Northern beans

1 14-oz can artichoke hearts in water

salt to taste (sea salt is nice)

2 Tb Parmesan cheese, freshly grated per bowl

Heat broth to boiling. If using dry beans, rinse in a sieve, then boil in broth for 5 minutes. Let beans soak in the hot broth while you prepare the herbs and vegetables.

Add Parmesan rind, red and black pepper, oregano, bay leaf, garlic and rosemary. Chop kale leaves, leek, onion, celery, and bell pepper in the food processor in batches, or chop finely by hand, and stir into broth.

If using canned beans, rinse and add to pot. Chop artichoke hearts and carrot, stir into soup. Let cook 20 minutes on medium, and salt to taste. Discard Parmesan rinds when serving.

Chicken soupy rice

Happy once, happy twice,
happy chicken soup with rice

I used to sing this Maurice Sendak poem* to my kids while making them chicken soup with rice, one of the all time great comfort foods. Lately we’ve been suffering from stomach flu, which precludes most of that fresh produce I’m usually serving. Instead I made a soupy rice with a squeeze of lemon. It’s a simple dish that can be made in the rice cooker while napping.

Ingredients:

1 cup white rice (I used long grain)

5 cups homemade chicken broth: Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

1 tsp lemon juice

Cook rice with 3 cups broth in rice cooker, then stir in two more cup broth when cooker is done. Let sit 1/2 hour, then turn on cooker again until rice is heated through. You can also cook rice with 5 cups broth over the stove until rice softens (about 20 minutes.) Let sit so that rice soaks up more broth, about ½ an hour. It should be soupier than regular rice.  Serve with a tsp of lemon stirred in.

If you are not up for making homemade stock and have a box of  broth on hand, you can make this recipe using 2/3 cup rice to 3 cups broth in the rice cooker, then add the last cup after the cooker goes off. It won’t be as amazing as the homemade broth version, but it is easier.

Vegetarians and Vegans can make this recipe with vegetable stock.

* To see the entire poem, from “Chicken Soup with Rice, A Book of Months” by Maurice Sendak, as sung by Carole King, click here.

Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup (plus a vegan version)

OK the chicken doesn’t need to be Jewish. But this soup will cure any cold, which is why it’s called Jewish penicillin.

My Vietnamese student Dan gave me a the advice to break the bones to expose the marrow to add amazing flavor and nutrients to the broth.

Ingredients:

Bones, skin, herbs and vegetables from roasted chicken

add 2 more cloves garlic

1 bay leaf

3 stalks celery, leaves also, coarsely chopped

2 carrots chopped, or a handful of baby carrots

1 onion, coarsely chopped with skin

green part of leeks, coarsely chopped

2 tsp. salt, or to taste

black pepper

Water, about 1 gallon

After serving and boning chicken, reserve bones and skin and herbs. Break the bones to expose the marrow (I use kitchen shears). Return the bones to the soup and let it boil while you shred the chicken by hand. Discard lemon, or it will give a bitter flavor to your broth. Fill roasting pan with water, add more celery, garlic, salt and pepper, the green part of leeks and onions. Keep onion skin on for a golden color to your broth.

Directions:

Boil for at least an hour; two hours is better. Stir to get the drippings in the pan into your soup. They add a delicious flavor.

Let cool until you can handle the pan. Strain through a strainer and store in refrigerator. The next day you can skim the fat off with a slotted spoon and adjust seasonings. This broth can be used as a base for various soups. Serve topped with fresh  dill.

Add kneydlekh-(matzo balls) for special occasions like Passover and Rosh Hashanah or just to help the healing process.

You can also add rice or noodles to the broth.

My mother-in-law, the beautiful Conchita, immigrated from Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas with a flair for making meals that were bién rica.  I have adapted some of her  recipes such as sopa de fideo, which is Mexican chicken-noodle soup.  She fries the fideo, which is short vermicelli, and adds onions, tomatoes and salsa.

Vegan Version: Omit the chicken. Add 3 sprigs of rosemary, 5 sprigs thyme, 10 cilantro sprigs, a handful of parsley, 3 sage leaves, and 3  garlic cloves to ingredients. Boil the vegetables and herbs for an hour, then strain and use as a base for vegetable soups.