June 27, 2018

Dear friends,

Creating a recipe isn’t rocket science but it isn’t easy, either.  I practiced for about 15 to 20 years before I got good at it. That’s why I’m skeptical of all the food bloggers out there who present recipe after recipe with no attribution (but nice photos), giving the impression that they dreamed them up.

Really?

Not even professionals can keep the creative engine running week after week, and when I can’t, I tell you. This week’s delicious summer couscous salad recipe is from Ina Garten. I’m grateful that when the well runs dry I can turn to my food-writer friends, chefs and cookbook authors for inspiration. I’m happy to give them credit for the recipes I borrow. I hope others do the same.

Ina’s tuna couscous salad uses basic ingredients in just the right proportions to produce a dish that is greater than the sum of its parts. Slippery orbs of large Israeli couscous are tumbled together with canned tuna, olives, peppers, garlic and lemon and let sit while the pasta soaks up the flavors. Fresh basil, chopped scallions and more lemon are stirred in just before serving.

The flavors improve the longer it sits, Garten says. It was delicious the next day when I had some for breakfast. (Yes, I liked it that much.)

Garten prefers the flavor and quality of Italian canned tuna for this recipe. I found it in a supermarket for about $2.50 per can. If you can’t find it or balk at the price, domestic canned tuna in oil may be substituted.

ISRAELI COUSCOUS & TUNA SALAD

Jane Snow.jpg

2 cups Israeli (large pearl) couscous (10 to 12 oz.)

2 (7-oz.) cans or jars Italian tuna, drained and flaked

2 tsp. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ cup good olive oil

3 tbsp. capers, drained

½ cup pitted, oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped (3 oz.)

½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, medium-diced (4 oz.)

2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chopped scallions (6 to 8 scallions)

¼ cup julienned fresh basil leaves, lightly packed

Juice of ½ lemon

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the couscous and reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pot and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the couscous is just tender. Drain.

Meanwhile, combine the tuna, lemon zest, 1/4 cup lemon juice, olive oil, capers, olives, red peppers, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1½ teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl. Pour the hot couscous into the mixture and stir well. Cover and set aside for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Just before serving, stir in the scallions, basil, juice of the ½ lemon, and up to 1 more teaspoon of salt. Taste for seasonings and serve warm or at room temperature. This can be made a day in advance. Bring back to room temperature and add the scallions, basil, and lemon juice before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust,” by Ina Garten.

GUT CHECK

What I cooked last week:
Couscous and tuna salad; grilled hamburgers; egg sandwich with pesto and fresh basil leaves; asparagus with vinaigrette.

What I ate last week in/from restaurants::
A chili-cheese dog at the Sub Station in Wadsworth; jerk chicken, rice with peas, cabbage stew and cucumber salad at Pots & Pans Jamaican restaurant in downtown Akron; chicken vlacki (Greek marinated chicken breast, feta, spinach, chopped cuke and tomato over a puffy flatbread) at Village Gardens in Cuyahoga Falls; banh mi, noodle salad, spicy fritters and more at an ethnic picnic with Akron Project Learn ESL students at Patterson Park in Akron; chicken under a brick over mashed potatoes, sautéed kale, asparagus and radishes at Wolfe Creek Tavern in Norton; barbecued ribs from the Winking Lizard in Fairlawn (meh).

THE MAILBAG

From Betty:
I know sauerkraut is loaded with probiotics because it is fermented, but does canned sauerkraut have probiotics too or does the canning process eliminate them? Same with dill pickles.

Dear Betty:
Canned sauerkraut is still fermented, so it contains the probiotics — good bacteria —that enable the body to extract vitamins and minerals from the food more easily than raw or plain cooked cabbage does. A word of caution, though — sauerkraut is high in salt.

Probiotics may have other benefits, too, such as reducing gas, constipation and diarrhea, according to dietitian Regina Petre at healthline.com.

As for pickles, most are made with vinegar and are not a source of probiotics. Fermented pickles, made by soaking cucumbers in brine, do provide probiotics.

From Anne C.:
I have seen people request old recipes that appeared years ago in the Akron Beacon Journal from time to time. I don’t know if anyone has shared this information, but when using the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s website (akronlibrary.org) for other research, I came across an online database that is available to patrons — the Polly Paffilas Recipe Index.

This resource includes approximately 5,000 recipes that appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal from 1959 to 1980. Recipes may be searched by keyword, ingredient, name, category or date.

You will need a library card to access the information. From the library’s homepage, in the large “Databases” box, click on “databases A-Z.” Then find the recipe index alphabetically under “P.” After finding the title of the recipe you want, to access the recipe itself, you will need to contact the Special Collections Division at specialcollections@akronlibrary.org.

Dear Anne:
Polly, one of my predecessors as food editor at the newspaper, was a cherished friend. I remember all of those recipes on index cards in overflowing file boxes in her closet. She took the files home when she retired because the newspaper was about to toss them away. Years later she gave them to me to preserve, and I donated them in her name to the library. Thank you for the reminder.

Saving recipes was easier when I was food editor. All of the recipes I printed from 1986 onward are available on the Beacon Journal database, also accessible through the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s website. From the home page, click on “Databases A-Z,” then on “Akron Beacon Journal.” After entering your library card number, you can search for recipes by name, ingredient, date or author, or a combination of any two.

 

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