Couscous Salad with Fresh Cherries

Couscous Salad with Fresh Cherries // Not Without Salt

Over the next week I have three recipes for you that will make your summer barbeques the most popular on the block. They aren’t what you would call “traditional” barbeque recipes but that is perhaps what I like most about them. And since next weekend (it being the 4th and all) is pretty much the grill’s favorite holiday then it looks like that perhaps for once in my blogging career I may be ahead of the game for a holiday.

It’s a couscous salad studded with fresh cherries, toasted almonds, a zippy pomegranate molasses vinaigrette and quite green due to the amount of fresh herbs. Oh and there’s feta, if you’re in to that sort of thing. It has the freshness of a more traditional salad but the pleasant heft of a pasta salad. It sits beautifully next to grilled meat and vegetables (more on that soon).

If tradition is more your style when it comes to barbecuing for the 4th then still consider this salad. For your next picnic maybe? It’s an ideal candidate as it does beautifully waiting for you in the fridge or lingering in the picnic basket while you play games or dip your toes in the sand.

Let’s call this recipe a guide rather than a map to be followed strictly. Perhaps you’d like more zip, than you’ll need more than 1/2 a lemon. Are fresh cherries not around yet? Dried would slip in their place nicely. I used toasted marcona almonds but you could use regular almonds, pine nuts, pistachios – you get the idea.

Couscous Salad with Fresh Cherries // Not Without Salt Couscous Salad with Fresh Cherries // Not Without Salt

 

Couscous Salad with Fresh Cherries

Serve 6-8 as a side

 

3 cups Israeli couscous

1/4 cup Pomegranate Molasses

2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

juice from 1/2 a lemon

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 cups cherries, pitted and quartered

1 cup (4 ounces) marcona almonds

1/2 red onion, diced

1 1/2 cups, packed fresh parsley and mint leaves

1/2 cup crumbled feta

 

Cook the couscous in boiling water that is seasoned with salt and a glug of olive oil. Drain the couscous while it’s still al dente, about 7-9 minutes but each variety is different so continually check the doneness.

Rinse the couscous with cold water to stop the cooking then set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the pomegranate molasses, rice wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add this to the couscous.

Mix in the cherries, almonds and onion.

Finely mince the fresh herbs and add those to the salad. Finish with fresh feta.

Taste and adjust to your liking, adding more salt or lemon juice if needed.

 

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Fresh Raspberry Scones

Fresh Raspberry Scones // Not Without Salt

It seems fitting that the first thing I would bake in our new house would be these scones. It’s a recipe that has hung on the inside of the cupboard door at our old house – a place where I keep all our frequent recipes for easy access – and soon it will find a spot in the new cupboards.

I seek comfort in a place that feels new; almost like we are on vacation. In a shaky attempt to make us feel at home I reach for a recipe that we know, that we crave, and that reminds us that we not just hanging out here for awhile.

In fact more than any other house we have lived in this house is our home. This is the sort of house we can imagine raising teenagers in. It’s the sort of place I can see myself living in with just Gabe, as our kids go off on their own grand adventures. And as far off as this seems I can even imagine seeing the little feet of our grand children bounding down the hallway and into the kitchen where they lured in by the smell, most likely, of scones.

We are settling in, unpacking boxes, finding places for our things and finding new rhythms. It feels like a fresh start. A chance for me to throw away the things I feel as if I could have done better in the old home; more laundry, organized my cabinets, make a mess on the floor with my kids and not be concerned about the mess in the process – and start again. Establishing a sense of what this place is; our home. It’s comfort, ease, imperfect and inspiring. At least that’s what I hope it will be once the boxes are all out of my sight, I stop worrying about all the sand getting tracked all over the house, and I can look at the space and think about something other than all of the things we still need (a couch!!).

Fresh Raspberry Scones // Not Without Salt Fresh Raspberry Scones // Not Without Salt Fresh Raspberry Scones // Not Without Salt

Isn’t that always the case though? We have grand ideas for what we want reality to be and then reality actually shows up in its clunky, awkward ways.

Like our first meal in the new home. I set out to make gyros – a new family favorite. I fumbled around the kitchen trying to find my loaf pan and where did I put the pita? Why the hell did I buy non-fat yogurt when I meant to buy whole milk yogurt? Should the spices go in that drawer or the cupboard above? Soon enough the kitchen smelled of toasted spice and fresh mint and things started to feel right.

“Hummus!” I shouted at Gabe. “I really want hummus but I haven’t unpacked the Vitamix.”

Determined I tore through a couple of still packed boxes until I found it. Somehow the lid ended up in another box so a plate had to stand in. Feeling a bit of satisfaction I reached into our pantry (we have a pantry!) to grab a can of chickpeas which reminded me that I had not yet seen the can opener.

Gabe saw my frustration and grabbed the can. He could tell that this was about much more than hummus. It was me trying to find our home but was constantly reminded of how unsettled we really are.

Determined, he ripped into that can of chickpeas with his leatherman and handed me a jagged edge can that could have easily maimed me with one wrong move. The chickpeas, one by one, landed into the lidless Vitamix and then whirred into delicious hummus; tart, spicy and heavy on tahini – just how I like it.

Even these scones; they are not real lookers. They flattened in the oven and are perhaps a bit burnt on the bottom but their imperfection didn’t matter as we plucked fresh raspberries in our newly acquired garden and brought a plate of our misshapen scones down with us to the beach. We ate them in between crab hunting sessions and squishing soft sand between our toes. We shared them with new neighbors as I bit my tongue trying to fight the urge to apologize for their appearance.

Reality isn’t perfect but beauty abounds if we have the eyes to see it. This is our new reality in all its imperfect glory. I want to strive to see the joy in the mundane, find its beauty amid the mess and care more about loving the people who walk through its doors than the house itself.

This is our new home. We will laugh here, cry here, grow here and share countless meals here. It will be beautiful, messy and imperfect. Just as a home should be.

Fresh Raspberry Scones // Not Without Salt

Fresh Raspberry Scones

adapted from Date Night In

This recipe has been made no fewer than a hundred times in our house. These shortcakes are our scones, the cobbler on top of our baked fruit, and sometimes, with the addition of herbs or cheese, savory biscuits to accompany dinner.

The trick here is not to overwork the dough. It’s a very crumbly mass once it comes out of the bowl, but that’s why the finished texture is so light and tender. Don’t knead the dough together, but rather press it until it just holds.

This dough can be made by hand, in a food processor, as it is written, or in a stand mixer.

 

MAKES 8 SHORTCAKES

2 cups / 270 g all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped (optional)

1⁄2 cup / 115 g unsalted butter, diced into 1⁄2-inch cubes, chilled

1 cup / 240 ml plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, divided

1 – 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries

3 tablespoons Turbinado or granulated sugar

 

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, granulated sugar, and vanilla bean seeds, if using. Pulse a few times to combine and break up any clumps.

Add the butter, scattering it over the flour. Pulse 15 times to break up the butter. The mixture will look sandy, with some larger pieces of butter throughout.

Pour 1 cup / 240 ml cream over the dough and pulse an additional 20 times. Add the raspberries and pulse just a couple more times to combine. The dough will look crumbly and dry.

Dump the dough onto an unfloured work surface and use the palm of your hand to work the dough just until it holds together. You don’t want to overwork the dough, as this can make it tough. Gather the dough together into a 6- to 8-inch round (for making wedge-shaped scones) or a rectangle (for cutting out round biscuits).

Use a brush or your fingers to spread the remaining 2 tablespoons cream in an even layer on top. Sprinkle the extra sugar, if using, on top of the cream. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut the dough into the desired shapes and then place them on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until deep golden along the edges.

Cool to room temperature on a wire rack.

These are best served the day they are baked. Unbaked dough can be wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month.

Note: Often I make these by hand and simply grate the chilled butter into the dry ingredients with a cheese grater. From there I toss the butter and dry ingredients together, breaking up any large clumps with my hands, and then stir in the cream.

For extra flaky layers, give this dough 1 or 2 turns as you do in the Quick Puff Pastry recipe (page 19).

 

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