Couscous Risotto with Scallops

56 Comments

The name of this post sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, couscous is crushed wheat, a staple in North African countries. Risotto is an Italian dish made with specific rice varieties, like Arborio.

I discovered a beautiful, tri-color couscous, and decided to turn it into a creamy risotto-of-sorts topped with seared and spicy scallops, just for fun. I assume from the size of the couscous “pearls,” that this is an Israeli couscous.

For the spiciness on the scallops, I’m using a favorite product by Penzey’s called Red and Black. It’s a mixture of black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Couscous Risotto

1 pound scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black and Red Pepper
Bacon grease, or grape seed oil, about 3 tablespoons total
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups broth, approximately
Heavy cream, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh chopped parsley, optional

First rinse and dry the scallops. Season with salt and the red and black pepper; if you don’t want them spicy, use sweet paprika.

Heat bacon grease in a large, cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. You’ll have to sear the scallops in two batches.

When your grease is hot, add half of the scallops. Cook them about 2 minutes on the first side, till they’re well browned.

Turn the scallops over and reduce the heat at the same time. This will help cook the scallops through.

After another 3 minutes or so, test them with your tongs. As soon as there’s some firmness, remove them to a paper towel. Continue with the remaining scallops, first heating grease (adding more if necessary) over the highest heat.

When cooked properly, scallops should be soft and glistening.

To make the risotto, heat the grape seed oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven. Add the shallots and cook them over medium heat until they’re soft.

Pour in the couscous and stir it around until all of the pearls are glistening.


Then, just as with risotto, add some broth and stir it in well, continuing with the broth until it’s all done. This should only take about 15 minutes.

Pour in the cream and salt. Give it a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then cover the pot and remove it from the heat.

Remove the lid after 10 minutes and let the couscous cool slightly.

Place the risotto in a shallow serving bowl, then add the scallops, tucking them into the risotto.

Sprinkle with parsley, if using.

I also added some cayenne pepper flakes, cause I like spicy.

The couscous risotto really came out superb. Creamy and soft, but the pearls hold their shape.


I really love my concocted dish!

And then imagine this dish with borage flowers sprinkled on top, because they were meant to be there 😬.

Chicken Shawarma

62 Comments

After eyeing a beautiful, drool-worthy photo of lamb shawarma on a blog one day, shown below, I so wanted to make it, except for the fact that my husband won’t eat lamb.

So I searched the same blog, Recipe Tin Eats, for chicken shawarma and found a recipe I knew we’d both love.

It is Nagi’s recipe, who lives in Sydney, Australia, although she was born in Japan. I’ve enjoyed her blog for a few years now; her recipes are always fresh and innovative. Nagi also has the cutest dog, Dozer, who makes his appearance in every blog post.

Shawarma is Middle Eastern in origin, and refers to beef, lamb, chicken, or veal, grilled on a vertical spit that rotates.

If you’ve ever been to a döner kebob spot, you’re familiar with a close shawarma cousin. Similarly, the meat is sliced and placed on flatbread, sometimes offered with cucumber and tomato, or even hummus.

Except that shawarma is more about this lucious, spicy marinade that coats the raw meat and crusts up when the meat is grilled.

Why I never made any kind of shawarma at home before now is beyond me.

Chicken Shawarma
Slightly adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

2 pounds chicken thighs (I used breasts)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon finely ground pepper

Slice the chicken into uniformly-thick pieces and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining ingredients and stir well. Yes, I’ve never used a tablespoon of ground cardamom in a dish before either, but don’t hesitate. Use it!


Add the chicken and make sure all of the pieces are coated. Place the chicken and marinade in a large zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 1 or 2 days.

Ideally the chicken should be grilled outside on a barbecue, but on this day I used my indoor stove-top grill.

Bring the chicken to close to room temperature. Grill the chicken until just done; you don’t want the meat dry, especially if you’re also using chicken breasts.


To serve, set out the platter of grilled chicken, flatbreads, hummus, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers.


You don’t have to add all of the “goodies,” but I do!

I made a parsley-laden tabbouleh, and also served a “salad” of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Nagi included a yogurt sauce on her same blog post for chicken shawarma, and I preferred it over the hummus.


Yogurt Sauce

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Squeeze of lemon
Salt
Pepper

Whisk together the yogurt with the garlic, cumin, and lemon. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at room temperature.


I even made a quick pickled radish condiment for the shawarma, but it wasn’t really necessary.

For this feast, I had to share with friends, so I served all of the dishes buffet-style, and friends created their own shawarma. It’s so similar to serving fajitas!

Everyone had a good time. I served a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir which went perfectly with the chicken and other Middle Eastern flavors.

Roasted Carrot Dip

80 Comments

If you have followed me for any time, you are most likely aware that I prefer a white bean-based dip over one that is garbanzo bean-based, like hummus. The texture is smoother and creamier, in my humble opinion, because of the different bean.

I also don’t think that tahini is the big deal ingredient that most people think it is. (Sorry Elaine and Yotam.) I love it in some things, not in everything.

So if I want a white bean dip or spread, I reach for my favorite – canned Great Northern beans. Then I decide what I’m going to add to it. Hummus eaters make hummus, with tahini and lemon. Same dip, all the time! I like to change things up.

Recently I came across a Roasted Carrot Hummus dip from My Kitchen Witch, and it caught my attention because carrots are one ingredient I haven’t added to white bean dip!

On this blog there are recipes for white bean dip with fresh rosemary, spices, beets, roasted butternut squash, paprika cream, and pumpkin. This just goes to show what can be done to make spectacular and tasty dips. You don’t always have to make hummus!

I’m not using Debi’s recipe, because hers is a hummus. This recipe is a white bean dip. But those roasted carrots got my attention! Thanks, Debi!

Here’s what I did.

Roasted Carrot White Bean Dip

6 small orange and/or yellow carrots
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
2 cans Great Northern beans, drained
1-2 cloves garlic
1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt, to taste
Olive oil
Aleppo pepper, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Scrub the carrots, if necessary, trim the ends, and dry off on a paper towel.

Place the carrots, cut into uniform pieces if necessary, in a jelly roll pan, or baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.

Roast until the carrots are caramelized but also tender. Sometimes I turn off the oven after the caramelization shows, to let veggies cook all the way through; you don’t want any burnt bits on tender carrots.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, place the drained white beans in a food processor jar.

Add the cooled carrots, garlic, cumin, and salt. Pulse as much as you can, then slowly add olive oil until there are no pieces of carrot or garlic any longer, and the dip is creamy.

If you like the carrot bits in your dip, process the garlic first, then add the carrots.

Serve immediately with pita bread, pita crisps, crackers, or bread.

You can see in the photo above how creamy and “pourable” this white bean dip is. And it doesn’t thicken and get mealy like garbanzo bean-based dips do.

I sprinkled Aleppo pepper on top of the dip, and for extra color, served it with blue corn chips.

Before I could even wash dishes, my husband had finished the dip! That’s his thumb in the photo.

verdict: Obviously my somewhat picky husband loved this dip, but I concur that it’s outstanding! The carrots add a subtle sweetness.

Note: I’ve never found that Hummus or white bean dips keep in the refrigerator. The garlic gets an off taste from oxidation, I presume, and it never tastes as good as when it’s just made. I recommend only making what you plan on eating on the same day.