Weekly Winner:  This Salad Has Got It Going On!

Let’s face it, salads can be boring…mundane… expected.  It’s the go-to dish when you want to feel good about what you’re eating. But so often, to make them palatable you need to fill them with things that perhaps, are not so good for you. Creamy dressings, crunchy fried croutons, gooey cheeses, bacon!!! Seriously, when you get done with one of those salads, you just might as well have had a sandwich.

This is not one of those salads.  Toasted Couscous & Chard Salad is everything a salad should be.  First of all, its gorgeous. Nobody wants to eat an ugly salad.  In addition, it’s chock-full of nutritious ingredients, it has a multitude of textures going on, loads of unexpected flavors, and best of all – not an unhealthy ingredient in the entire bowl. It also just so happens to includes my most-recent total obsession:  Pomegranate Molasses. I honestly don’t know how I’ve lived so long without this stuff.  I also don’t know why I’ve gone so long without making this salad.  It is a true keeper.  Try it and see if you don’t agree. The recipe comes from Better Homes & Gardens Magazine and the only change I’ve made was with the beets.  I did not have raw golden beets so I used cooked red beets and simply diced them.

Toasted Couscous & Chard Salad

Serves 8 [in actuality, more like 4 to 6 — no one is only going to have a cup of this salad!]

Ingredients:

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

2 Tbsp butter

1 tsp Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes)

6 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1 cup Israeli couscous

1 cup grated uncooked golden beets [or 1 cup small diced cooked red beets]

1 cup lightly packed Italian parsley

1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

1/3 cup chopped, toasted walnuts

1/4 cup mint leaves

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

1 Tbsp pomegranate molasses

8 oz rainbow chard, stemmed and thinly sliced

Procedure:

  1. In a small saucepan bring chicken broth to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover; keep warm
  2. Meanwhile, in a very large nonstick skillet melt butter with Aleppo pepper, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper over medium-high heat. Add green onions; cook 1 minute or until fragrant.  Add couscous; cook 5 minutes until toasted.  Slowly stir in chicken broth.  Cook until all liquid is absorbed and couscous is al dente.  Stir in beets; heat through.
  3. Remove skillet from heat.  Add parsley, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, mint, vinegar and molasses; toss to combine.  Toss with chard and drizzle with olive oil before serving.

Weekly Winner:  Mean, Green, …Game Food??

My husband puts up with a lot from me.  He willingly goes along with my quest to seek out the newest restaurants.  He is enthusiastic about my experimenting with new ingredients and is a ready taste-tester.  For the most part he is even on board with my attempts at eating healthy and “going green”.  As long as I don’t mess with the classics or decide to forego bacon entirely he’s a very patient man.  Imagine his skepticism then, when I announced that I had found our dinner for Super Bowl Sunday and it would be totally, and utterly, vegetarian!  Yep, that’s right.  For the Big Game — the most sacred bastion of junk food there is — I was making Roast Broccoli Heroes.

I mentioned he was skeptical.  However, once he learned that said Roast Broccoli Hero would include French-fried onions and that the recipe came from Alton Brown’s newest cookbook EveryDayCook, he gave in.  And you know what? They. Were. Awesome!  These weren’t just good vegetable sandwiches.  These were decadent-tasting, messy, indulgent, yumminess-in-a-roll.  Seriously, they were probably one of the top 5 sandwiches I’ve had in the past year.  Certainly in the top 3 that I’ve made (possibly ever).  The roasted broccoli tastes meaty and the combination of the mayonnaise, pickles and chili sauce amps up the umami factor big-time.  Oh yeah, and then you add cheese and those French-fried onions.  Trust me, you will not miss the meat in this sandwich. It was enthusiastically approved by said skeptical husband.  We’ll be making these again for sure — and soon!

Roast Broccoli Hero

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 cup sliced bread and butter pickles

1/2 cup pickle brine (from the bread and butter pickles)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 Tbsp minced fresh ginger

2 Tbsp chili sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1 large head of broccoli (about 1 pound), chopped into florets, stalk thinly sliced into rounds

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp Kosher salt

4 6- to 8-inch French bread rolls

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 cup prepared fried onions

4 oz. ricotta salata, grated

Procedure:

  1. Het oven to 400F
  2. Combine the pickles, pickle brine, garlic, ginger, chili sauce and sesame oil in a small bowl.  Allow the pickles to marinate while you deal with the broccoli
  3. Toss the broccoli with the olive oil and salt in a large bowl, spread into an even layer on a half sheet pan and roast for 15 minutes.  Toss and roast for another 15 minutes.  When you remove the broccoli from the oven, move a rack under your broiler and heat the broiler to high.
  4. Split and lightly toast the rolls under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. For each sandwich: Lightly spread mayonnaise on each side of the rolls then evenly distribute the pickles.  Next, layer on the broccoli, then the fried onions and top with the ricotta salata.