Crunchy apples and grilled artichoke salad

I’m a sucker for anything crunchy in my salad, especially apples. tart green apples and I love them in any size and shape. So does my over-size lion pooch – who will gladly eat firm green apples full time over his dry cereal, if i only let him. I’m not a night eater but if I go to bed on an empty stomach I know the growling sound will wake me up around midnight, demanding a fair share the others had before – food. I’d get up and go downstairs, grab a nice firm green apple, peel it, slice it (very quietly so not to wake up anyone) and eat it with satisfaction. While calming my hungry stomach I’d look down with my mouth full and notice two huge round eyes staring at me, begging in the dark, and a happy wagging little tail. My pooch. He’s a sucker for green apples as much as I am.

I remember as a child I went to family weddings with my parents, we would sit around a beautiful table setting and the first thing I noticed was the variety of salads, but one in particular was apples and celery in a mayonnaise dressing. The dressing was too heavy for my taste so I fished out the apple slices, wipe them clean with paper napkins and ate. I did it every time.

Apples are satisfying and delicious, a first fruit choice in my list to incorporate into my cooking. Inspired by my childhood I made this apple salad with a twist – instead of celery and the usual ingredients, I used grilled artichokes instead, nuts, fresh parsley in a light lemon/mayonnaise dressing. I’m not a big fan of creamy dressing so this salad is textured and gets extra punch with nut crunch and lemon. Beautiful.

delicious apple and grilled artichoke saladAmong the ingredients I used of course:

delicious apples & grilled artichoke salad

crunchy apples and pecans

delicious apple & artichoke salad in lemon/mayo dressing

Lemon from my lemon tree. You don’t have to have a tree really. But to me having a lemon tree is a luxury πŸ˜‰grilled artichoke hearts and apple salad

So friends, shall we?

Ingredients:

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2 tart apples (peeled & cored)
1 cup sliced artichoke hearts (sold frozen in almost any supermarket) (thawed, unless you use fresh)
1/2 c. walnuts or pecans
3 whooping tbsp light mayonnaise
handful parsley
1 tsp crushed caraway seeds
3 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
3 tbsp olive oil

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Rinse the thawed artichoke hearts, dry them well with paper towel and sautee in olive oil, low/medium heat until edges are crispy. Shake the pan every once in a while. If the artichokes are dry to begin with they will brown nicely. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.Β  In a large bowl combine the spices, mayonnaise, 2 tbsp lemon juice and zest. Whisk well to combine. Adjust taste to your liking. Set aside. In the meantime, chop the parsley and add it to the dressing bowl, slice the apples (I like medium/thick slices) and add to the bowl as well along with chopped nuts and the cooled artichokes. Gently fold and toss everything until well coated. Chill for at least half an hour before serving to intensify flavors. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve.

While I prepared this salad to go with my Moroccan chicken, the conversation with my hungry 10 yr old who was watching me went something like this:

my lovely: “..mom what are you making?”
me: “salad.”
my lovely: “mom. what kind? wait!! are these apples?!!” (pointing, like she didn’t know)
me: “yes”
my lovely: “mom! are you gonna put that in the food??” (she gave me the look like i just gave birth to an elephant)
me: “yes”.
my lovely: (in a clear voice) “well I am not eating!!”.
me:Β  “good. more for us”.

Bon appetite

Delicious baked puff pastry stuffed with Moroccan couscous

I’ll begin by telling you that this dish is not only quick to make, delicious and crusty and filled with yummy surprises that make you ask for more, but it’s also original, really. I mean, how many people do you know stuff pastry with Moroccan couscous?

But first, let me share something with you before we continue. I just have to let it out. Do you ever get panicked? I mean some things in life can get me panicked like..hmm let me think…….o.k. maybe I don’t get panicked but my blood heats up every now and then, depending on the occasion. Like last Friday night, we had friends over for “see you later alligator” dinner (we are going on vacation and they stay here), and I worked very hard to make a memorable evening (they will watch our house while we’re gone). So we sat down, started with the salads while waited for the appetizer to finish baking (about an hour). I went into the kitchen to check on it…are you ready for this? when I opened the oven door all I saw was…nothing. nada. zip. not a thing baking, no smell. What??!!

I, a person who dislikes “lateness” in any form, shape and color no matter what the excuse is, forgot to put the food in the oven. It never happened before. Top that with very hungry crowd and you could hear the bubbles in my blood start boiling. Panicked? Naaah.

playing a guitarMy daughter entertained our very patient guests.

But accidents sometimes turn into a major success. Yes they had to wait longer. Yes, they laughed at the situation (or maybe at me). And yes, they raved about the first course that disappeared in 30 seconds flat. Yes, they asked for more. And yes, they even went home with appetizer goody bag. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Moroccan couscous stuffed in puff pastryThe winner.

So go ahead, forget but don’t panic (unless you insist). Keep your cool, laugh at yourself and share your late arrivals no matter what. You’ll be glad you did.

So, shall we:

ingredients:
1 pkg frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 pkg plain instant couscous (10 oz)
1/2 cup dry cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds (unsalted)
1/2 cup chopped whole nuts
handful chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red hot paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 pound ground turkey or chicken breast (cooked)
1 orange zest
1 egg (mix for egg wash)
3 tbsp roasted sesame seeds

preparations:

Preheat oven to 400ΒΊ. In a bowl filled with boiled water soak raisins and cranberries for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside. Prepare instant couscous following instructions on the box (eliminating the salt).

In a large bowl combine prepared couscous, dried fruit, nuts, orange zest, spices and cooked turkey or chicken (if desired. I added cooked and seasoned turkey breast). Mix all ingredients until well combined. Season with kosher salt and black pepper.

Moroccan couscousOn a clean lightly floured surface roll out pastry dough into square shape about 1/4 thick and cut into squares, depending the size of your sheet (mine was about 5″x5″ each). You can cut into 9 equal squares if you prefer smaller ones. Place a heaping tablespoon of the couscous mix in the center of each square.

puff pastry stuffed with moroccan couscous

Take one corner of a stuffed square and fold it over to the opposite corner and pinch/seal edges with the tines of a fork.

puff pastry stuffed with moroccan couscous

Place stuffed pastry on a parchment paper keeping space between them for expansion, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake between 30-40 minutes or until deep golden color is achieved.

Serve warm with fresh salad(s) as an appetizer (like I did) or, if you didn’t use meat have it for breakfast with hard boiled eggs on the side and fresh sliced tomatoes – you have no idea how delicious this it! until you try it.

Reheating it in the microwave is a no-no.

Any other “stuffy” suggestion for puff pastry?

I’m all ears.

Watercress and goat cheese summer salad

“Salad is never more appetizing than when served in a large wooden bowl

Dorothy Draper

..as long as it’s mixed with some eye-catching ingredients too.

hello chefs,

Salad can be unglamorous and boring even if it’s healthy, don’t you think?

My family thinks I’m boring because I eat mainly salads. Well, i like salads because it’s the only food that doesn’t make me fall asleep.

Some of my close friends are not so…how shall I say it delicately…creative when it comes to salads. They don’t even think it’s food. I just hope they don’t read this.

So when you want to prepare something to eat but without a lot of effort, something that tastes like you spent the afternoon shopping in an upscale market, what can be better than a good healthy contrasting delicious colorful crunchy fresh salad? if you’re asking me…well, a lot of things like chilling under the Tuscan sun, shopping in Paris, flying first class but…let’s just stick with the salad now shall we.

Do you love watercress? if you’ve never had it why don’t you give it a try. It’s a herb widely used in Europe and rich in vitamin C and iron. But aside from its benefits I love the tangy taste, especially when I combine it with other fresh greens, or soups. watercress summer salad

Jazz up your salad with watercress and the addition of fresh sliced strawberries helps to make the salad colorful and refreshing. Nothing says summer more than red juicy berries right? This salad might even surprise the kids. Look, with kids it’s straight forward: either they will hate it or be all over it. It happens to me all the time. First they say no, then they taste, than it’s gone, than I make another one. πŸ™‚

watercress goatcheese summer salad

A good salad starts with basic lettuce then you add whatever you like, build it up in layers, it’s like art class. The “fuller” the salad the more “dinner” appeal it gets. Then, complaints that “there is nothing to eat in this house” magically disappear. It’s fun to make and eat and so colorful to look at you’d even want to take pictures of it.

Shall we:

ingredients

2 cups Romaine lettuce (washed, dried and roughly cut)
bunch watercress, remove tough stems (washed and dried)
sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
4 small radishes, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup canned artichoke hearts (drained and roughly cut)
1 tsp each toasted white and black sesame seeds (use both or either)
kosher salt and black pepper to taste
3 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried orange zest
(store-bought or you can make it yourself)

The dressing: in a bowl combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and paper. Whisk until well combined. Set aside.
Assembly: in a large platter place Romaine lettuce mixed with watercress, radishes and artichoke hearts. Top with crumbled goat cheese and garnish with strawberries. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and dried orange zest. Drizzle the dressing on top and all around the salad.

Serve with toasted french or country bread (optional).

watercress goat cheese summer salad

This juicy salad can turn any blah moment to a special one. It’s very light and refreshing…almost like taking a cool shower on a hot summer day

…or maybe not.

But it’s a good as it sounds.

Bon appetit