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.

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Squash or Pumpkin Gingerbread

My neighbor Shauna gave me these beautiful acorn squash that she grew. I roasted them and used them to make squash gingerbread.

I made the bread again, this time with pumpkin. It’s a bit more gingerbread than pumpkin bread; the squash taste is overwhelmed  by the gingerbread spices. You can roast and /or purée the squash ahead of time.

I used whole wheat pastry flour for a healthier bread.

Ingredients:

1 cup pureed roasted squash or pumpkin

½ cup mild molasses

1 tsp baking soda

1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground cloves

¼ tsp salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

Roast squash or pumpkin at 450′ for an hour or until soft. Slice in half when cool enough to handle. Remove seeds and fibers, then scoop out flesh and purée in food processor. (You could also used canned pumpkin puree if you’re looking for a shortcut.)

If it has cooled down, heat with molasses in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Stir in baking soda. The soda should cause it to foam. Let cool.

Set oven to 325’ Spray a 8×8 inch pan with nonstick spray, and line the bottom of it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the paper and the pan sides. I’ve also made this in a loaf pan, but it took 15 minutes longer to cook.

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices into a bowl.

In a mixer bowl, beat eggs, applesauce and sugar on high speed 3-4 minutes until thick and the color is lighter.

Fold in 1/3 flour mixture, then alternate with ½ the squash mixture, mixing gently by hand. Pour into pan and shake pan to even out the batter to all sides. Bake it until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

It’s especially good spread with cream cheese or lower fat Neufchâtel (nuf-shuh-TEL) cheese and topped with walnuts.


Caprese I said, not Caprice

Insalata Caprese

The foggy Berkeley summer is over, and fall sunshine kisses our green tomatoes, making them blush. I pick these crimson treasures, then top each slice with creamy fresh mozzarella, and crown them with a basil leaf. I anoint them with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. My daughter likes a sprinkle of  balsamic vinegar on them.

I first tasted Insalata Caprese (salad in the style of Capri), at the wedding reception of our friends Doug and Jason. The two grooms had just taken their vows, barefoot and in matching tuxedos, on the beach  in Provincetown, MA. At the reception there were these cherry tomatoes topped with little balls of fresh mozzarella and a fresh basil leaf, all held together with a toothpick. They were the prettiest things, and so tasty! I was trying not to be a greedy guest, but I kept sneaking back to the plate to pop one more into my mouth!

My friends Bob and Dawn served these mini caprese hors d’oeuvres at a party. They marinated the mozzarella  first, which added great flavor.

Mozzarella Marinade:
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 Tb minced garlic
3 TB fresh basil, minced
1 tsp sea salt

Buy an 8 oz container of small mozzarella balls, known as ciliegine, and replace the whey with the marinade. You can also buy a good quality mozzarella or Mozzarella di Bufala and cut it into small pieces. Marinade overnight.

I used del Cabo sweet 100s organic cherry tomatoes from Monterey Market in Berkeley. They are smaller and sweeter than supermarket cherry tomatoes. I want to grow my own next time!

The small basil leaves came from my little plants in my kitchen window. You also tear a piece of a large leaf if you don’t have any small ones.
Skewer a tomato, then a fresh basil leaf, then the ciliegine.

caprese appetixers with halved tomatoesI recently prepared them with the tomato split in half  on both ends of the hors d’oeuvre, with the cut sides facing each other. I sliced the rounded ends off the ciliegine to flatten it.

Pour some of the marinade over and garnish with fresh basil leaves. You can use the excess marinade to flavor hot pasta.

You can make a  delicious caprese  sandwich, especially made with Acme bakery’s herb slab or focaccia.

Caprese sandwich


Serves 2

2 slices good bread. I used a herb slab from Acme bakery, (which is conveniently located down the street.) You could also make this with focaccia, olive bread, French bread or baguette

2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, sliced thick. Dry farmed tomatoes have great flavor! (available at Oakland Fruitvale Farmer’s Market and at Monterey Market in Berkeley)

4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese.

4 basil leaves

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

several shakes salt and pepper to taste

Slice the bread and toast it. Cut the toast to fit each of the tomato slices.

On each piece of toast, place 1 slice of tomato,  then a slice of mozzarella, covering with a basil leaf. Drizzle 1 tsp olive oil on top, and shake a bit of salt. Manga!

Caprese eggs

I invented this breakfast take-off on caprese salad. These eggs cook with fresh basil and chives, diced tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.

2 servings

4 eggs

2 medium tomatoes, diced

2 tsp chopped chives – 4 chives

4 diced basil leaves about 1 Tb, plus two leaves for garnish

2 Tb grated mozzarella cheese (or diced fresh mozzarella)

¼ tsp olive oil

¼ tsp salt to taste

grind of pepper.

Cover eggs with hot tap water in a bowl for 10 minutes to warm them. While they are warming, dice tomatoes, basil and chives. Heat olive oil in nonstick skillet, add tomatoes and chives and a sprinkle of salt and spread out on pan. Cook over medium heat about 2 minutes, until tomatoes soften.

Break eggs on top of tomatoes and sprinkle a bit more salt and a grind of pepper and  basil. Sprinkle mozzarella on top of eggs.

When egg whites turn white, but yolks are still liquid, slide onto a plate. Garnish each plate with a basil leaf. Nice served with toast to dip into the eggs.


How ugly are your cucumbers?



I bought some cucumber plants from a grade school fundraiser last spring. I had no idea what kind they were. Now in September I’m finding these ugly little treasures hiding behind the leaves. They have got to be the funniest looking veggies around! And they have prickly little bodies, so they’re not even ugly and cuddly, (unlike those cabbage patch dolls). But peel them and bite into their crisp insides and yes! That is why I faithfully watered these babies! They add crunch to sandwiches and salads including the Quinoa Tabouli salad I made today for a lovely late summer meal.

quinoa tabouli