Thursday, July 18, 2013

Couscous Salad with Mushrooms, Corn, Black Beans, Scallions and Avocado

I usually don't like avocados in my salad and sandwiches, although I love guacamole.  I think it's because the flavor is so strong and the texture is so unique so that's all I end up tasting and I feel like it overwhelms whatever I'm eating.  But this recipe seemed so intriguing I had to give it a shot.  Plus I'm a big fan of Israeli couscous ever since I had my first taste at my eldest sister's wedding over a decade ago. I'd never cut and peeled my own avocado and man those suckers are super easy to peel!

The couscous salad goes so well with the avocados - a perfect marriage of flavors and textures!  This is a great dish to eat warm or cold for the summer months when avocados are plentiful!

Servings: 2-4 (this is two dinners for me)

1 1/3 cups of Israeli/pearl couscous (Trader Joe's has a great box of these)
2 tablespoons (approximately) of extra virgin olive oil, divided (or cooking spray)
10 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups chopped scallions
1 1/4 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1 15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
2-3 limes, juiced
1 avocado, pitted and sliced or chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 sliced jalapeno (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)


  • Cook 1 1/3 cup of couscous according to instructions and set aside.
  • While couscous is cooking, heat a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add a couple teaspoons of oil or coat with a cooking spray and then cook 10 oz of sliced mushrooms, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until golden grown.  Season mushrooms lightly with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  • Add another teaspoon of oil to the pan or another coating of cooking spray and cook 1 1/4 cup of corn and 1 1/2 cup chopped scallions, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes until scallions are soft and the corn is browned.  If you want, you can divide the scallions into white parts and green parts and cook the white parts now and set aside the green parts to add in later, but I'm lazy so I just throw them all in the pan.
  • Remove pan from heat and add to the pan the cooked mushrooms, 1 can of black beans, and the juice from 2-3 limes.  If you separated the scallion greens earlier, add them back in now.
  • Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Top each dish with the chopped avocado and cilantro.  Avocado slices look all pretty and fancy but practically it's easier to eat if you just chop up the avocado in small pieces.  
  • Optional:  Add a sliced jalapeno or a couple splashes of your favorite hot sauce for some heat!
Sunny looks all tired as though she was the one doing all the cooking!
Adapted from Martha Stewart.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer White Bean Salad with Vegetables, Basil, and Parmesan

I love reading food blogs that draw their inspiration from the local and fresh ingredients of the day at the farmer's market or gardens.  Unfortunately I don't have the time the time to shop often at farmer's markets and I am terrible with plants.  I tried growing herbs recently on my tiny less than 6-inch balcony/sill and quickly killed them off.  I'm quite lethal with plants.  So my shopping experiences are pretty much limited to random grocery stores and Trader Joe's.  So when I saw the fresh yellow and green zucchini at my last Trader Joe's trip, I thought it would be nice to do a veggie heavy summer salad.  It's too hot to turn on the stove or oven!  This was a perfect refreshing salad and it's a nice vegetarian option to include in my rotation this summer.

So let's just pretend like I got my inspiration while digging up some fresh zucchini from my lovely garden or while slowly strolling down the neighborhood farmer's market in a cute summer dress, and not while rummaging through the Trader Joe's vegetable shelves in my pug fur-covered sweatshorts (yeah that's right, I said sweatshorts).

Servings: 4, but if you're going back for seconds and this is your main dish then more like 2.

2 15-ounce cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 small zucchinis, halved lengthwise and then sliced into half moons
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup green beans (or haricot verts), trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped
1/2-2/3 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (depends on how cheesy you want it)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 lemons, juiced
Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large bowl mix together 2 cans of cannelini beans, 2 chopped zucchinis, 2 cups grape tomatoes, 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1 cup chopped green beans, 1 cup chopped basil, 1/2-2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon zest, and the juice from 2 lemons.  
    • If you want to cut back on the bite of raw onions, try soaking the cut onion pieces in cold water for at least 10 minutes.
    • Small zucchini are sweeter than large ones as the seeds from large ones greater than 10-12 inches take on a bitter flavor.
  • Season with coarse salt and cracked pepper to taste.
I added a teeny bit of leftover chopped red bell pepper here too but you can't even see it.  Next time I might try adding more to add some more.
Sunny and Rosy are getting pretty good at sitting in the right spot for my photos!  They know they get treats if they pose well!
Adapted from Martha Stewart.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cold Soba Salad with Chicken, Basil, and Bell Peppers

One of my favorite summer dishes that my mom used to cook when I was younger was simple soba that she'd serve cold in lil bundles that we'd dip in cold tsuyu seasoned with wasabi and with lots of handfuls of chopped green onions and nori seaweed.  That started my love affair with soba.  I continued this love affair in my adulthood, even though I never cooked it myself, by frequenting one of my favorite midtown New York lunch spots, Soba Nippon, where I'd eat soba warm in a delicious broth during the winter and then cold as part of a huge chicken salad during the warmer months.  I haven't come across a soba preparation that I didn't like!

I was recently craving soba again but it's been way too hot and humid to even think of eating it warm in a broth (Chicken Soba Soup with Poached Egg) and I didn't have any tsuyu handy (well I did find a bottle in the very back of my pantry but I won't even tell you how old the expiration date was!) so I decided a cold soba salad would be a perfect healthy and delicious dish!  The fresh basil and vinegar/lime juice sauce really make this meal for me.  And topping it with some coarse salt, black pepper, toasted sesame seeds, and spicy red pepper boost the flavors of the dish.  This soba salad is pretty easy to make and can be really quick to put together if you do all the chopping in advance.

Servings: 4 (but if you go back for seconds then this would serve 2)

8-9 ounces soba
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 limes, squeezed
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced,
1-2 cups fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
2-3 cups chicken, cooked and shredded
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Red pepper (gochugaru) (optional)


  • Cook 8-9 oz of soba according to packet instructions al dente.  Rinse cooked soba in cold water, drain, and set aside.
  • In a large bowl whisk together 2 tbsps toasted sesame oil, juice from 2 limes, and 2 tbsps rice vinegar.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Toast 1 tbsp sesame seeds until lightly browned.  Watch this carefully as sesame seeds can go from beautifully toasted to terribly burnt real quickly.  
  • Add to the large bowl with the sauce 2 sliced bell peppers, 1-2 cups thinly sliced basil, 2-3 cups shredded chicken, and the cold soba.  Toss until well mixed and sauce evenly covers all the ingredients.
  • Top each bowl with toasted sesame seeds and additional salt and pepper to taste.  
  • Optional: Add some red pepper for a spicy kick.  I like to add gochugaru, which is a Korean red pepper powder which I mooch from my mom.
Sorry girls, this is spicy and not for you!  I did set aside tiny bites of chicken before adding it to the noodles and gave the girls a lil taste as a reward for posing nicely for these photos.
Adapted from Martha Stewart.