Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pearl Cous Cous Salad with Fresh Mango and Cucumber

I came across an interesting article on the BBC which I thought would be an appropriate prelude to today's entry. Eat Less while Eating More talks about a new study by scientists of the British Nutrition Foundation who found that meals consisting of high water content foods tend to keep us feeling fuller for longer. The finding is that foods such as whole grains, yogurt, and those good old fruits and vegetables are digested slowly when compared to calorie dense, low water content foods such as peanuts, processed food products and candy. In addition, by replacing what's on our plate with mostly fruits and vegetables, we would consume a larger volume of food but less calories.

Sounds familiar, no? It is the age old advice for healthy living: eat more fruit and vegetables. An easy way to do so is to slip a couple extra servings into everyday meals. Such as this salad. It is teeming with cucumbers, red peppers and sweet, fresh mango. Like most salads, you can substitute whatever you happen to have on hand. Pineapple or chunks of peaches would definitely work, as would diced carrots or even fresh tomato wedges.

Pearl Cous Cous Salad with Fresh Mango and Cucumbers
Serves 4 to 5

1 1/2 cups pearl (israeli) cous cous
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 shallots, minced
2 star anise pods
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
1 large cucumber, slices (about 2 cups)
2 cups fresh mango chunks ( about 2 average sized mangoes)
1 cup diced red pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Turmeric dressing
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup fat free or low fat sour cream
1 tbsp dijon mustard

1. Set a large pot over medium heat. Add vegetable oil, ginger, shallots, and star anise. Saute until shallots soften, about three minutes.
2. Add the cous cous and stir well to thoroughly coat each bead with the shallot mixture. Cook for an additional two minutes, until the cous cous browns slightly. Pour in the vegetable broth, stir and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer until all of the liquid as been absorbed, an additional seven to eight minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare the turmeric dressing by combining all of the ingredients. Refrigerate until read to use.
4. Once the cous cous has cooked, discard the start anise pods. Toss cooked cous cous with cucumber, mango, red pepper, cilantro and turmeric dressing. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Share Our Strength Minneapolis

Last Friday, Share our Strength held its Taste of the Nation benefit in Minneapolis. All proceeds went towards helping eradicate childhood hunger in America. Statistics show that approximately 700 00 thousand children in the United States experience hunger while more than 12 million live in homes where the concept of stable meals is not the norm but a daily battle for these families. (Progressive Policy Institute) Share our Strength is hoping to totally end this affliction by 2015. Visit their website for future events and other ways you can help this cause.

At Friday's event, restaurants from in and around the Minneapolis metro area offered samples of some of their signature dishes, as well as ones created specifically for the event. A couple of the highlights were the giant pot of paella served by Kitchen Window, and the passion fruit petits fours created by pastry chef Christina Kaelberer of Chambers.

I was also one of the judges at the mixology competition between Johnny Michaels from La Belle Vie and Birk Gruden from the Bradstreet Crafthouse. A tough job but someone had to do it. No, seriously, it was a tough job considering that they both are the top mixologists in the area. It was a close duel but at the end of the night, and after fervent taste-testing, Gruden emerged the winner.

Here are some photos of the evening.

The large pot of paella served by Kitchen Window. If you ever have to cook for 100, this is the pot for you.

Johnny Michaels and Birk Gruden doing what they do best.

With the other two judges: Mecca Bos-Williams of MetroMag, and Ezra Sauter, the lucky audience member.

With event chair Becky Opdyke.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Taste of Summer

While iced tea is probably the drink most synonymous with summer, I find that most could use a little something extra. A little more flavor, a little pizzaz so to speak. Enter the watermelon. Summer is the perfect time for fruity drinks and watermelon is the perfect fruit for summer drinks. Add fresh watermelon juice to freshly brewed tea and you have an exciting and refreshing summer drink.

Watermelon Peppermint Iced Tea
Serves 3 to 4

2 cups boiling water
2 bags of peppermint tea
4 lbs seedless water melon, cubed (about 6 cups)
honey (optional)

1. Pour hot water over the tea bags, cover and allow to brew for at least five minutes.
2. Meanwhile, puree the watermelon in a blender, strain and discard the pulp. In a large pitcher, add watermelon juice and tea. Sweeten with honey if desired and stir well. Chill before serving or serve immediately over ice cubes.