There is nothing like buying a little bit of fresh herbs to give humph and a clean flavor to a dish. Sometimes all you need is a couple of tablespoons. And then you are left with a bunch of herbs without planned use. In comes the bunch of parsley I purchased for the Tyrolean Knodel I made again last week. I only needed a little and I had so much left.
I often freeze my fresh herbs but they tend to be left forgotten. Parsley is not a herb I use a lot so I wanted to make something different while still fresh. There is only one recipe that I know of that requires parsley in large quantity, the Tabouleh Salad.
I would have to say Tabouleh is probably one of the first Middle Eastern foods I have ever eaten, it acompanied a Lebanese fast food dish. Tabouleh claims its origins in Syria and Lebanon but it became quickly popular all over the Middle East, each country putting a twist on it.
I have consumed countless Tabouleh versions since my first one. Some were an eye opener and many were a huge disappointment. I believe this recipe below is the best Tabouleh I have ever tasted. I really like the texture of the Israeli couscous in here, a nice variation but a similar size on the traditional bulgur. The seasoning is so simple but full of taste. The parsley is not overbearing in this recipe either. I highly recommend you give this one a try.
I have you seen these nifty herb scissors? I got them for Christmas after I exclaimed jealousy to my mom who had gotten a pair as a hostess gift a couple of year’s back. Five blades easily chop up fresh herbs without bruising the leaves too much. A little plastic comb gets the herbs in the blades out. It’s my new favorite gadget.
I am starting to get more and more in the mood to host little dinner parties. Well occasionally so don’t expect an invite too soon (talking to my friends that read this lol). Recently we were a nice group of 6 at my place. Only problem is I had 2 vegetarians, 1 sustainable-only meat eater and 3 carnivores. What to make for dinner?
Couscous came to mind as a very versatile dish. And I have no problem with serving a vegetarian only meal but I wanted to have the option to serve meat to those who wanted some. I happen to have a pork roast already cooked in the fridge. For fake meat for the vegetarians I found a baked tofu recipe. It was a hit with all.
I have made many different kinds of couscous in life and they are all unique. This ones is up there on my list now with this roasted vegetable twist. Roasted veggies seem to pack extra flavor and the vegetable selection for a couscous is different. The usual carrots and rutabaga were replaced with belle peppers, eggplant, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.
About 6 cups of veggies chopped into bite sized pieces (such as onions, mushrooms, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes)
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
3 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup golden raisins, re-hydrated for 30 in hot water and drained
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (15 1/2-ounce can) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1.5 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 C couscous
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place your veggies in a medium bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Salt and pepper.
Place on baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes. (If using cherry tomatoes wait and add them to the baking sheet after about 20 minutes)
Put veggies in a large pan. Add to veggies cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, cardamom and cayenne; saute 1-2 minutes. Add stock, and next 5 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes or until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro and lemon juice.
Slice a block of tofu into 9 slices. Place them on a double layer of paper towels and place another double layer over them. Press firmly with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place a silicone baking mat on a cookie sheet or oil a long, rectangular baking dish. Brush one side of each slice of tofu with a thin layer of sauce and place it on the pan sauce-side down. Spread remaining sauce on the tops and sides of the tofu. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until tofu is firm and just beginning to brown at the corners.
Every once in a while you discover an ingredient you just cannot get enough of. My current fetish ingredient is Israeli couscous. I L-O-V-E the stuff. I first discovered it in a farmer’s market in Toronto. On a following trip I went back to buy some more…I have yet to find some in Montreal. I just may have to order some online.
I wanted to make a casserole like dish with Israeli couscous for a dinner with a friend. Now this friend is not vegetarian but she is 100% all about sustainability and organic food…particularly meat. I applaud her effort but I won’t pay 12$ for 2 chicken breasts. Perhaps I just don,t know where to go shop for organic meat. Anyways, when she comes over I always do a vegetarian dish. This one if loaded with CHEESE!
She is also a foodie so my goal was to blow her mind, or should I say her taste buds. This recipe was absolutely astounding and amazing. It is full of intense flavors, especially garlic. We both had seconds.
Ξ Israeli Couscous With Spinach, Feta and Walnuts Ξ
adapted from KLHquilts on Food.com
1 1/2 cup Israeli couscous
2 cups boiling water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large onion, diced
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup minced fresh basil
1 cup feta, cubed
1/3 cup walnuts
5 cups loosely packed fresh spinach
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated Harvarti (or Gouda, Monterey Jack, Provologne)
Add couscous and salt to boiling water. Cover and let sit 10-15 minutes, then fluff with fork.
Heat oil in large skillet. Saute garlic and onion until tender and translucent.
Drain canned tomatoes, reserving 2/3 cup juice. Add drained tomatoes to garlic and onions. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir tomato mixture into couscous. Mix in half the reserved tomato juice, basil, feta, walnuts, 4 cups of the spinach, salt and pepper.
Spread half of the couscous mixture in a square baking dish. Sprinkle half the Havarti evenly, then top with remaining couscous mixture.
Spread evenly on top the cup of spinach left, pour remaining tomato juice over and sprinkle remaining Havarti.
I am currently away on vacation for a week. Here is a little post I prepared ahead of time.
In mid march, five friends of mine and I rented a cottage for the weekend up north. I had planned the menu with Johanne; one dinner was to be a Couscous. Well we were so busy or had lunch so late we never made the couscous. I volunteered to bring the ingredients home to freeze and have everyone over for dinner. The very Sunday I got back is when I broke my wrist. Also one of my friends was away for a couple of months working in Guatemala. Fast forward three and a half months, we finally had the Couscous dinner.
I made one crucial change to the recipe. Instead of browning and baking the chicken I grilled on the BBQ. Johanne made it on her own as per the recipe. The grilled version was unique and had great flavor but if you bake it in the oven the chicken will be a bit more moist and flavorful. Why not try both ways! Oh I have to say I found the leftovers better then when served right after making it.
Ξ Cinnamon Chicken with Couscous and Dried Fruit Ξ
from Epicurious, originally from Bon Appétit | December 2005
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup mixed chopped dried fruit (such as currants, apricots, and prunes)
1 14-ounce can low-salt chicken broth
1 cup couscous
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint, divided
My BBQ Chicken version
Preheat oven to 375°F. Sprinkle chicken with salt, pepper, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger. Heat oil in large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces, skin side down, and cook until skin is brown, about 8 minutes. Turn chicken and transfer skillet to oven. Roast chicken until thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer chicken to plate; tent with foil.
Add onion to drippings in same skillet; sauté onion over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add dried fruit and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ginger; stir to coat. Add broth; bring to boil. Remove skillet from heat, stir in couscous and 1 teaspoon mint. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Season couscous to taste with salt and pepper.
Mound couscous on platter; place chicken atop couscous. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon mint and serve. Makes 4 servings.
Harissa claims its roots are in Tunisian but it is very popular everywhere in Northern part of Africa. The key ingredients in a traditional harissa are bird’s eye chili peppers, serrano peppers and other hot chilis and spices such as garlic paste, coriander, red chili powder, caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil. Other options are of cumin, red peppers, garlic, coriander and lemon juice. It is a very adaptable recipe.
Of course recipes for harissa can vary greatly depending in which region you are in or even in who’s house you are eating it. Usually harissa has a paste like consistency which is added as a condiment to recipes like stews, spreads, sauces and cousous.
The version I will show you here is more like a broth consistency and is super fast to make. The flavors are very basic too so feel free to add garlic or coriander or what ever you like. Add it to a soup for a fiery kick or dip some torn pita in it. Let you imagination run wild. This recipe yields about 1/2 cup but feel free to multiply for larger quantities.
Ξ Express Harissa Ξ
1 1/2tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp bird’s eye chili powder (substitute with cayenne)
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 cup water
juice of 1/2 lime or to taste
In a small pan add the paprika, the bird’s eye chili powder and the cumin. Add the water to the pan and mix well. Bring the mixture to the point of boiling but as soon as bubble appear remove it from the heat – boiling will damage the natural oil essences of the spices. Add fresh lime juice to taste and let cool before serving.
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If you ever go to Toronto the main Farmer’s Market in the city is held Thu, Fri and Sat at the St Lawrence Market. Plan to give yourself a lot of time to explore the market if you are a foodie, it is huge. I first visited this market about 7 years ago and I fell in love with one particular shop specialized in rice.
correction: South Market open Tue to Sat (food shops) and the Farmer’s Market is on Sat only
Lost on an island stand in the middle of a corridor of the basement floor is Rube’s Rice. Rube is the owner and one of the first tenants of the present day market. He specializes in rice, beans, lentils, couscous and anything dried. I was so amazed back then by the exotic selection of rice I bought about 5 different kinds. I always dreamed of coming back one day to this shop.
Alas it took 7 years until I made it back. Not because I has not returned to Toronto since then, I have many times, but because we always ran out of time on the agenda. A couple of weeks back I was again in the Ontario capital city visiting a dear friend. We finally made it back to the market and to Rube’s Rice shop….10 minutes before the closing of the market! It was a mad dash. Kind of funny when you think about it: I am not a huge fan of rice…not the plain white kind.
Well I may have been short on exploration time but I did not waste a minute in grabbing another selection of rices to take home. Next trip -which may very well be in a month or two – I demanded that a real trip to the market with plenty of leisurely time be on top of the outings list. But in the mean time I will share with you my rice finds!
2 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 45 min
Wehani is an aromatic red whole-grain rice from northern California. It was developed from basmati rice seeds from India. Its grains are reddish-brown in color and slightly resemble wild rice. When cooked, the rice produces an aroma similar to that of hot buttered peanuts, and is slightly chewy.
1 1/2 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 20 min
Now this one I was already familiar with and just adore this unique rice. Bamboo rice is short grain white rice infused with pure fresh bamboo juice. When cooked, it is pale green and tends to be quite moist and viscous, causing the grains to stick together. This rice is high in vitamin B, and gives it a flavor and aroma much like that of a green tea.
1 3/4 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 20 min
The Madagascar Pink Rice, a unique Malagasy rice variety grown from a single seed, has an elusively aromatic taste of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, and is also nutritionally dense.
1 3/4 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 30 min
Volcano Rice is a mineral and an antioxidant packed blend of traditional aromatic West Java rices grown on volcanic soils rich in magnesium, manganese and zinc. It is grown by family farmers in the Tasikmalaya region of Indonesia.
1 1/4 parts water for 1 part rice, bring to a boil and simmer 9 min
Not a rice but it seems like this couscous is everywhere all of a sudden, especially in the foodie blogosphere. Ptitim is an Israeli toasted pasta shaped like rice or little balls. Outside of Israel it is known as Israeli couscous or Jerusalem couscous. Ptitim were invented during the rationing period in Israel, from 1949 to 1959, when rice was scarce.
Do you know how this blog got started? No it was not a need to share my baking skills with the world but a dinner group. On March 11th, 2007 I started a group on Meetup.com called Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Meetup allows people to start a group on what ever you want and then fellow meetup members can join and go to events the organizer sets up. My first organized event was 6 days later on March 17th, 2007. We were 3 people only. It was fun but I thought for sure this was going to be a short lived group with such attendance.
After 6 months I decided to start this blog to write reviews of the restaurants we attended as a group and over time it has grown into so much more. Well a year passed and the group grew, a lot. By the time we celebrated the 2nd anniversary there were about 250 members we had a huge party where 85 people from the group showed up. I was beyond astounded and overwhelmed by emotions that night.
Three years passed and we had another big party, although not quite as big. The 3rd anniversary was also our 75th event. For 3 years my volunteer assistants (Sharon, Olivier, Agustin, Johanne, Toni) and I have planned at least 2 event per month at a reasonably priced ethnic food restaurant. Montreal has no shortage of those. I could not have done it without the help of my fabulous assistants. Thank you.
Now after 3 years and a half and 88 events I have decided to hang up my organizer hat and close the group on meetup. I have met amazing people along the way, some cookie ones too, and I have made amazing friends too. Why am I closing. Life moves on and I just felt it was time to stop. I love it but I need t move on. It was a really hard decision to make. I had the farewell dinner this Oct 12th 2010 at the Salon Mogador with 27 members.
I chose this Moroccan restaurant which we had been to in Jan 2008. It had been a huge success and I thought the couches and low tables made it ideal for eating, schmoozing and relaxing for the last dinner. We 4 different salads, a veggie couscous, a veal couscous and a chicken tajine with lemon and olives, baklava for dessert. Mint tea flowed all night. Thank you to Dourid of Salon Mogador for organizing the event for us.
My amazing friend Aurora..who now is the only reining Queen Organizer on Meetup in Montreal… had everyone pitch in for a special surprise for me. They got me one of those huge cards that everyone signed and a bouquet of Felix & Norton cookies. Have you ever had there cookies. I actually though they no longer existed but apparently the do and they have the best cookies. It was an emotional moment.
Pics by me and Bernard Reischl
Now don’t you worry this blog is going nowhere. This blog is my passion. As far a s dinners I am not done organizing some. I am assistant organizer now on another group which will allow me to organize meals once in a while. But first a rest. And I am toying with the idea of setting up a private, more exclusive, dinner group right here on my website. So keep your eyes peeled for possible future announcements.
But for now it is a Goodbye to the dinner group that started this entire whirlwind foodie adventure. Thank you so much to all the past members that ever joined and participated in a dinner. You have all taught me so much, touched and changed my life forever. Thank you! XOXOX