May 2, 2018

Dear friends,

My floor-to-ceiling wall of cookbooks is undergoing a severe pruning as I prepare for a yard sale this month. Should I keep Time-Life’s “Great Cooking,” even though the only recipe I use semi-regularly is for crepes stuffed with lemon soufflé? Maybe. Should I sell my two thick books on charcuterie even though I’ve never gotten around to making prosciutto. No. Some dreams die hard.

However, I have packed up dozens of books to sell, even when I invariably find a recipe I overlooked and just have to make. The salad recipe I offer today is a case in point.

Couscous Salad with Chicken, Avocado and Mango started life as a rice salad in an old “Food & Wine Magazine’s Quick from Scratch Herbs & Spices Cookbook.” I was looking for inspiration for using the first of the season’s chives. Instead I found a refreshing, deeply flavored salad that will taste as good in mid summer as it does now.

I changed some ingredients, added some and tinkered with the proportions to come up with the recipe that follows. I’m still going to sell the cookbook, but maybe not before I try the chocolate pudding with fennel and the grilled Fontina, mushroom and sage sandwiches. Among others.

COUSCOUS SALAD WITH CHICKEN, MANGO AND AVOCADO

JaneSnowCouscous-Salad.jpeg

1 cup uncooked Israeli couscous (large pearls)
2 1/2 cups cubed boneless, skinless rotisserie chicken (1/2-inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 mango, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 avocados, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh-ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves

Cook couscous in water according to package directions. Drain, refresh with cold water and drain thoroughly. Place in a large bowl with the chicken, onion, mango and avocado.

In a lidded jar combine lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper. Shake well. Pour over salad. Add cilantro and toss gently but thoroughly. Make 4 entree-sized servings.

MICROWAVE DESSERT

I have resumed working on my microwave mug dessert book, which at this rate will be finished when microwave ovens are obsolete. When I started the book just a couple of awful microwave mug recipes were floating around the Internet. Now there are thousands of recipes, but I’ll keep going because I think my techniques are unique and produce better-quality desserts.

Here is an example from my chapter on bread puddings. If you try the recipe, let me know what you think. Read the entire recipe before starting.

MICROWAVE MUG CINNAMON-RAISIN BREAD PUDDING

1 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
3 tbsp. milk
1 large egg white
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup gently packed white sandwich bread in 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/4 slices)
1 tbsp. raisins

Place butter in a 12-ounce pottery mug and microwave on high power until melted, about 20 seconds. Stir in sugar and milk. Add egg white, vanilla, cinnamon and salt. Beat with a fork until the egg white is thoroughly incorporated. Add half of the bread cubes and half of the raisins, pushing to gently submerge. Add remaining bread cubes and raisins. Push into the custard mixture, gently stirring once or twice to distribute raisins.

Microwave at 50 percent power for about 2 minutes 30 seconds for 1,000-watt ovens or 2 minutes for 1,000- and 1,200-watt ovens, adjusting time up or down for lower- or higher-watt ovens.

The pudding is done when the top is set but still moist and the sides of the pudding look set when a knife is inserted between the pudding and the mug. Eat from the mug or, if desired, let stand two minutes, loosen edges with a knife and invert onto a plate. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Al dente asparagus with fresh lemon juice and two poached eggs; chicken couscous salad with mango and avocado; meatloaf with cognac, baked sweet potatoes; hamburger, oven fries, roasted bell peppers; chopped Asian salad and Japanese Genghis Khan (thin-sliced marinated lamb pan-grilled over high heat, served over rice with stir-fried onions and asparagus).

What I ate last week in/from restaurants:
Hummus and beef plate at Aladdin’s in Montrose; a la carte scrambled eggs and bacon at Cracker Barrel in Montrose; a gyro salad at Arby’s in Wadsworth; marinated, grilled chicken with onions, peppers and salad greens at Village Gardens Restaurant in Cuyahoga Falls.

THE MAILBAG

From Geoff:
Re: food processors — Since I prepare quite a few Cajun dishes I need to make the trinity, a mix of onions, peppers and celery, fairly often. This is very easily done in the food processor by simply tossing in medium chunks of all three ingredients and pulsing several times until the correct size chop is reached. It’s much quicker than finely chopping by hand even if your knife skills are good.

Dear Geoff:
I will point out for my niece’s benefit that your Breville processor does a better job of evenly dicing ingredients than her Cuisinart. Still, if the chunks are a uniform size going into the processor, and the chopping is accomplished in brief pulses rather than a steady whirl, the vegetables will be fairly evenly chopped. I chopped an onion in my Cuisinart Sunday evening for a meatloaf, and it came out fine.

From Cindi S.:
I, too, consider my food processor indispensable. I finally got one around four years ago and immediately wondered what took me so long (I’m 45!). I use the shred blade to shred cheese maybe more than anything else. I find pre-shredded cheese has too much cornstarch or whatever non-clumping agent they use these days.

Whole blocks of cheese are far less expensive and the cheese tastes so much better than pre-shredded. I like blends of cheese, too, so I just get blocks of each kind (Cheddar and Monterey jack or Colby and Monterey jack or mozzarella and Cheddar or a favorite…Cheddar and Swiss) and feed slabs of them alternately through the tube, then give them a toss to further mix. I find they really don’t clump once shredded, either.

Dear Cindi:
I forgot about cheese. I use my processor to finely grate (well, chop) the Parmesan I buy in blocks. I freeze the whole blocks, hack off a hunk and grate it as needed for fresh-cheese flavor.

From Carol P.:
I use my food processor for slicing mostly. Do you ever make radish chips? They will never replace potato chips, but I like to keep them on hand. Celery, onions (with a small fan blowing the fumes away), carrot. Also anything I would drag out my mixer for. Really, it’s an all-purpose tool.

Dear Carol:
Radish chips? Do you eat them fresh or bake them? Do tell.

 

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