Saturday, August 29, 2009

Couscous With Dried Fruits And Walnuts

At a recent Block Club pot luck dinner party, where each neighbor brings a dish to share, I volunteered to bring a favorite couscous dish that complements any menu. After several requests for the recipe I decided to write a post so everyone can enjoy making it for their families. It’s quick, easy and very delicious.

Couscous With Dried Fruits And Walnuts

Using a dutch oven or a large sauce pan bring to a boil:
2 1/2 cups orange juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 garlic cloves grated (using a microplane)
pinch of saffron
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Add 2 cups couscous. Stir, cover and turn off the heat. Let the pot rest for 5 minutes.

Uncover the pot and fluff the couscous with a fork and add:
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup grape-seed oil (or canola oil)

Using a fork, fluff the couscous again and add:
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green onions
1 cup dried cherries roughly chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins roughly chopped
1/3 cup whole black currants
1 cup lightly toasted walnuts roughly chopped
2 tablespoons orange zest
1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint chopped

Fluff with a fork to keep the mixture light and fluffy. Check for seasoning and plate. Garnish with whole fresh mint, parsley or basil leaves.

This is a great dish to bring to a summer outdoor function without the worry of it spoiling in the heat. It makes a perfect bed for seared duck breast. And when fall’s cooler temperatures arrive, this couscous is a wonderful change of pace stuffing for roasted Cornish game hens. Although, I can eat it by the bowl full any time of year.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Julia Child! (August 15, 1912 - August 12, 2004)

Growing up in the 1950’s there was not much in the way of “Food TV”. Sure there was the occasional Kraft Music Hall food commercials announced by the deep commanding voice of Ed Herlihy. And I certainly looked forward to those. But I’m referring specifically to the actual cooking process. Seeing the dish being prepared from beginning to end and with all of the details of the techniques involved in the cooking given along with the recipes.

The 1962 WGBH premier of The French Chef TV series was a revelation. I became transfixed on the show’s content and hypnotized by its host, the illustrious Julia Child. I faithfully awaited each new episode ready to absorb Julia’s every detailed instructions and followed them to the letter. She was confident, knowledgeable, engaging and had a marvelous wit. Julia absolutely captivated me and changed the way I thought about food and cooking.

At a time when foods were designed to get us out of the kitchen, with the endless array of frozen TV Dinners, Julia concentrated on one of the worlds most sophisticated cuisines to share with her audiences. And right in our own living rooms. Classic French cuisine was considered to be too arduous for the home cook to attempt. But Julia changed all that. Although she was serious about food she injected her signature sense of humor and proved that anyone can conquer French cooking at home and enjoy it in the process. I most assuredly did.

As of late there has been a barrage of media attention given to the newly released film, Julie and Julia. The film is a sweet, lighthearted romp between two books, Julie and Julia by Julie Powell and My Life In France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme. Both books are a fun read, yet My Life In France is a charming look inside the lives of Julia and Paul Child. With all the candor and humor only Julia could provide, you just have to love this book. I read the book twice and I’ll read it again. In the film, Child is played by the incomparable Meryl Streep who captures the true sprit of Julia’s love of food and cooking. Streep’s portrayal of Child is spot-on. So convincing that it proves, yet again, that Meryl Streep walks on water! I felt as though I spent the afternoon with Julia herself. I’ll see the film again as well. Enjoy a glimpse of Julia Child here, here, here and here.

Thank you, Julia for being a woman of great ambition and stature. For introducing us to French cuisine and the endless company of chefs who are fortunate to have had your friendship. But most of all I’m eternally grateful to you for teaching us how to enjoy food, cooking and life. Merci!

Happy birthday dear Julia. I truly miss you. Bon Appetit!