Posts Tagged 'balsamic'

Balsamic roasted vegetable and couscous salad

This wasn’t supposed to be a couscous-based recipe, but when you’re on the phone with your sister and you’re groping around in the dark, far reaches of the cupboard where you keep your grains (in jars that are all the same size) you may just happen to mistake couscous for quinoa and not realize it until after it’s in the boiling water. Honestly, I think either of them would work wonderfully here, and someday I might even try it with another of my favorite grains, pearl barley.

Those grain-based salads (like this one with quinoa and this one with barley) make such amazing dinners, because they’re healthy and filling, and the leftovers are so convenient for lunch.

Originally, this recipe called for grilling the vegetables, but when it’s 8:00 PM, 55 degrees, and foggy, standing around a grill isn’t the most appealing proposition. So I roasted the vegetables instead, tossed them with couscous and basil, and dinner was served.

Recipe:
(adapted from Veggie Belly)

balsamic dressing
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic minced
salt and pepper

roasted vegetables
1 medium Japanese eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
1 small red onion, cut into wedges
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes
10 button mushrooms, halved

salad
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup couscous
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut chiffonade

Preheat the oven to 475 F.
Whisk the dressing ingredients together.
Toss all the vegetables in a large bowl, and add half the dressing. Mix so that all the vegetables are coated, then spread onto a rimmed sheet pan and roast for 25-30 minutes, or until everything is tender.
While the vegetables are roasting, bring the water to a boil in a medium covered saucepan. When it boils, turn off the heat and stir in the couscous. Let stand, covered, for about ten minutes. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
Add the roasted vegetables, remaining dressing, and basil, and mix well before serving.

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Asian Pear Salad

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This year concluded my decade-plus run of not touching Asian pears. It’s not like there is anything particularly wrong with them, but on my exceedingly scientific hierarchy of fruits I wish to consume, they don’t rank terribly highly.

When my grandparents moved into their new house (well, new about 14 years ago), they happened to have an Asian pear tree in the backyard. After tasting one of the crunchy, juicy, delicately flavored fruits for the first time, I hoped this tree would mean and endless supply of fruit for a few solid months. And that’s exactly what it meant. That tree produced pounds and pounds of Asian pears – more than we could possibly eat. By the end of the season, most members of my family decided they never needed to eat another Asian pear again, and thus my unplanned abstinence from Asian pears began.

Lately the produce trucks (with which I have a love-hate relationship – I LOVE that they bring cheap, fresh produce to my street but I HATE that they blast a recorded spiel about they’re selling at 7:00 AM) have been full of Asian pears roughly the size of my head. They’re sweet and crisp and divine, and Mike is head over heels for them. So we buy them by the bag and keep a steady supply in the fridge.

While it’s rare that they aren’t devoured within hours of purchase, the other day, one wayward pear remained on a shelf. I pulled some lettuce out of the crisper, toasted some walnuts, and whisked together a honey balsamic vinaigrette. The acid in the vinegar played well off the sweet pear, and are toasted nuts ever a bad choice in a salad? (Okay, yes, but it’s rare). I think Asian pears may now be moving up in the ranks of my favorite fruits.

Recipe
Lettuce
Asian pear, thinly sliced
Walnuts

Dressing:
1 part balsamic vinegar
1 part honey
1 part olive oil

Toast the walnuts in a dry skillet, shaking occasionally, until fragrant.
Wash and dry the lettuce, and tear into bite sized pieces. Place in a large bowl.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients, add as much as desired to the lettuce, and toss well.
Place the lettuce on individual plates, then top with a few slices of pear and a sprinkling of walnuts.

Brown Rice Salad with Spinach and Balsamic Chicken

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I read a LOT of food blogs on a regular basis, and I’m starting to see a trend: I gravitate towards blogs with a) fantastic, beautiful pictures and b) original recipes. This is because my blog usually has c) none of the above (but I’m working on it! I really am) and I’m hoping that I’ll learn a thing or two from the blogs that inspire me so much.

A few months ago my husband challenged me to come up with one (or more) new, original recipe each week. Because we were traveling the last 5 months, I couldn’t stick with it, but now that I’m back to cooking daily, I’m taking up the challenge once again.

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Today’s recipe was inspired by the bag of brown rice I recently purchased, and the beautiful bunches of spinach at the market. Since I pack my lunch every day, I knew I wanted to make something filling and nutritions, that could be eaten straight from the container without needing a spin in the microwave. I marinated some chicken in a little balsamic vinegar, cooked it up with some browned onions, and tossed that with citrus-scented brown rice, some raw spinach, and toasted walnuts. I know that sounds like a jumbled mess of flavors, but they come together really well.

1 cup brown rice
1 1/4 cups orange juice
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 cups washed spinach leaves, roughly chopped

Combine the brown rice, water, and orange juice and cook (on the stove top or in a rice cooker).
Toss the chicken with the balsamic vinegar and set aside.
While the rice is cooking, toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat (shake the pan to keep the nuts from burning) and remove when fragrant.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet and add the onion. Over low heat, cook the onion, stirring minimally, until translucent. Add the sugar, give the onions one good stir, and continue cooking until onions are browned (about 15 minutes).
Add the chicken to the onions and turn the heat up. Cook, stirring, until the chicken pieces are cooked through.
Put the chicken and walnuts in a serving bowl and top with the spinach.
Put the cooked rice on top of the spinach and let sit for a few minutes so the spinach wilts slightly.
Toss, then serve warm or at room temperature.