Couscous Salad with Orange-Infused Chicken

My long time friend Jeff Berman is a fantastic cook.  Actually he and his wife Jan were the ones that inspired me to start exploring more gourmet cooking in the 80’s.  Jeff’s dishes are always delicious, easy to make and nutritious.  This dish is no exception.  I made it for a picnic on Saturday and it was a big hit!

In addition to Jeff being a creative cook, he is a creative guy when it comes to the home and gifts.  He just launched a web-based store dedicated to interesting and affordable gifts for the home and travel.  You might want to check out his store here!

Great for a picnic!

Ingredients

2 ½ C              Fresh Orange Juice[1], divided

2-4                  Garlic Cloves, crushed

1                      Shallot, finely chopped

1 tsp              Dried thyme[2]

1-1 ½ #          Chicken Breasts, boneless and skinless, about 2 whole

½ C                 Chicken Broth

1 ½ C              Couscous

2                      Green Onions, finely chopped

¼ – ½ C          Dried Cranberries

1                      Red Bell Pepper, finely chopped

3 TBSP           Rice Wine Vinegar

3 TBSP           Olive Oil, good quality

S & P              To taste

Preparation

In a large sauce pan bring 1 ½ cups orange juice, garlic, shallot and thyme to a boil.  Add the chicken and simmer covered for 10-12 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken breasts.  Reserve the liquid.

In a separate sauce pan, bring 1 cup orange juice and the chicken broth to a boil.  Remove from heat and add couscous.  Cover and let stand 5 minutes.  In a large bowl, fluff couscous with a fork and then add the green onion, cranberries and red bell pepper.  Mix well. 

Cut cooked chicken into bite sized pieces and add to the couscous mixture.

Meanwhile take the reserved liquid (from the chicken) and boil until reduced to half.  Remove from heat and add the vinegar and olive oil.  Toss into the chicken/couscous mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4-6

Note:  The couscous portion can be made a day ahead.  The chicken is best if made the day you are serving.


[1] Jeff says fresh juice makes the dish much better than when using pasteurized.  If you are lucky enough to get it fresh it is worth the extra cost.  You could also try squeezing your own but that might take a lot longer.

[2] I used fresh as I have it growing in my garden.  I used about 1+ TBSP.

Is Your Farmer’s Market All Organic?

I have been traveling a great deal to Pasadena, California to take care of my mother this year.  She has been battling cancer which I am glad to report seems to be in remission!

 

While I have been there I discovered there was a Farmer’s Market on Saturdays near where she lived.  I was so delighted to find it since I am totally addicted to our Boulder Farmer’s Market and rarely miss a Saturday during season.  I did notice when I went to the one in Pasadena that they had a big sign saying the produce was local but didn’t mention organic.  Consequently I made note of which stands specifically mentioned organic or ‘not sprayed’ as in the case of one of the strawberry stands and purchased from them.  It made me appreciate the Boulder market even more as I assumed it was totally organic. 

This week my friend Rowan Rozanski from Jay Hill Farm, where I buy all my greens every week, sent out an email on the entire organic subject.  I was sad to learn that not all is as seems, even in our Boulder Farmer’s Market.  I have asked her to share the following with you so as to better educate you about your local farmer’s market.  I hope you find it as enlightening as I did!

From Rowan…

This last bit is… well… a rant.  Feel free to skip it, but I think this is something that applies to anyone who tries to buy local and organic.  🙂   

One of our long term customers, Christine, recently asked:  

“On a completely different note, I read an article this morning about California Farmers’ Markets where the vendors are supposed to be growing their produce organically— but do not.  There’s simply not enough oversight to ensure they are meeting organic standards.  How does the Boulder Farmer’s Market ensure that all vendors are selling organic produce?”

She was referring to this article, which ran in the Huffington Post last week: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/09/california-organic-food-s_n_640654.html

She is not the first person to ask this question.  While the Boulder County Farmer’s Market, as my father and other early board members envisioned it, was to be an organic and local vendor’s dream, much of the dream has disappeared for the sake of plentiful vegetables and fruit.  While still local, there’s very little focus on Certified Organic growers.  Many of the new vendors over the last few years have in fact been the antithesis of what my family and I stand for.  

Please understand, this is not a rant about the market, it’s a problem of perception throughout many communities in America.  Farm stands around the country have been known to prevaricate as well.  “Family”, “Local”, “Home Grown” are all phrases that mean absolutely nothing. It is ILLEGAL to claim your produce is organic unless you are certified by the USDA and the state of Colorado or unless your yearly farm income is less than $5,000 a year. 

Many of the farms at BCFM are NOT organic.  ASK! When you hear a sentence like “we don’t spray”, that means absolutely nothing.  You don’t have to spray nitrogen, miracle grow, or any other substance to add it to the soil, ground water and produce.  Once of my biggest gripes with the market was that you can only use “Organic” on your sign if you’re certified, but nothing says you have to say “not organic”  Most people simply assume it’s all good, and go for the lower priced items that are not organic.  This is unfair and harmful to those of us who are certified. Yes, our prices are higher, but there’s a reason for that! 

The organic certification process is over 60 pages of documentation, almost $1000 a year, and requires a 3-5 hour inspection by a certifier once a year.  We buy organic seed (NEVER treated) when available at a high (sometimes more than double) premium, and make sure our compost and nutrients meet federal standards.  It’s a grueling, expensive process that is necessary, and worthwhile, for your peace of mind and ours.  *sigh* 

If you would like to see what farms in Colorado ARE certified, you can check at:

http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/Agriculture-Main/CDAG/1216022437979 (click on certified organic producers). 

Please understand that this rant is not to inveigle you into buying more produce from Jay Hill Farm.  Buy wherever you want! It’s so that folks understand the difficulties faced by those of us who give our word to you and your families that we are doing our best to grow locally, sustainably, and with as much care for the earth and our fellow man as we can. 

Thanks for your understanding and time! 

Cheers, 

Rowan

April Recipe – Swiss Chard Sauté with Toasted Walnuts and Feta Cheese

I made this recipe as a one dish vegetarian meal.  It could also be great as 4 side dishes without the tofu.

Serves 2 Main Course, 4 Side Dish

Ingredients:

2+       TBSP Butter or Olive Oil or a combination, divided

4          Garlic Cloves, minced

1          Small Red Onion, chopped

1          Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1 tsp  Celtic Salt

25+     Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half or quarters depending on their size

1/3 C   White Wine

½ C     Currants

½ + C Walnuts, chopped and toasted

2          Swiss Chard batches, ribs removed and cut into 2” pieces

This is my favorite!

3 oz    Feta or Goat Cheese

1 pgk Firm Tofu, chopped into 1” squares

Salt & Pepper to taste

Preparation:

In a large sauté pan, heat 1 TBSP butter (or olive oil).  Add garlic, onion, bell pepper and salt.  Sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes adding white wine as liquid starts to evaporate.  Add in cherry tomatoes and currants cover and continue to cook over medium/low heat for an additional 5-8 minutes.  Add chard and cover until chard is wilted, approximately 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile in separate sauté pan, heat 1 TBSP butter (or olive oil) over medium/high heat and sear tofu. 

Combine chard mixture and tofu together.  Place on plates and top with cheese and walnuts.  Serve immediately.

February Recipe – Julies’ Easy Chicken Soup

When having dinner with a friend last night, I was inspired to pull out the old Crockpot and make something healthy and easy.  I decided that a dish somewhere between a one-course meal and a soup would be the answer.   Of course, you might want to add a salad to get some greens in.

The great thing about this dish is that it also works fantastically for breakfast.  Now I realize most people don’t even think of soup for breakfast but, as I have found out in my Asian travels, soup is often not only a daily breakfast but an incredibly satisfying one.  So double the recipe or save some for a cold morning!

The other fun thing about this recipe is it uses a chili that can be found in most grocery stores.  It is little but packs a great punch!  It is called chile de arbol or also known as a Thai chile.  Here is a picture:

Ingredients:

2         Chicken thighs, bone in with skin

1          Chicken split breast, bone in with skin

1 T      Olive Oil

Pinch Celtic Salt & Pepper

1          Onion, chopped

3          Garlic Cloves, minced

½         Red Bell Pepper, chopped

1          Orange Bell Pepper, chopped

2-3      Chile de Arbol

2          Carrots, cut into ½” pieces

1          28 oz Can Diced, Fire Roasted Tomatoes[1]

12       Medium to Large Shiitake Mushrooms, stems cut, quartered ( more if desired)

1 T      Fresh Ginger, finely grated

1 C      Vegetable or Chicken Broth

1 T      Celtic Salt

            Pepper to taste

1 C      Dry White Wine, optional

Preparation:

Place olive oil in medium size sauté pan over medium/high heat.  Sprinkle all chicken with salt and pepper.  Place in pan, skin side down.  Cook until chicken is slightly browned.  Turn and do the same.  Remove.  Take out all but 1 ½ T oil from pan.  Add onions, garlic, bell peppers, and chili’s.  Sauté until onion starts to become translucent, approximately 3 minutes.

Meanwhile place carrots, tomatoes with juice, mushrooms, ginger, broth, salt and pepper in Crockpot.  Place chicken on top followed by sautéed vegetables.  Cook for 7 hours.  About hour 6 or just before serving, remove the skin and bones from the chicken.  Shred the chicken and return to the pot.  Adjust seasonings and add wine around hour 6.

Serves 4-6


[1] I prefer Muir Glen brand.

January Recipe – Veggie Bean Chili with Espresso

My friend Jeff Berman is an amazing cook.  So, when I started to think about who I could consult on vegetarian, easy, healthy meals, his name came to mind first.  He generously offered me his recipe for chili.  I just made it this weekend and love the complexities of tastes.  I do have one comment… it may have been the chili powder I used, but it was HOT!  So, depending on your personal tastes, you might want to decrease the amount you put in. 

Ingredients:

½ C     Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3          Onions, chopped

1          Large Red Bell Pepper, diced

¼ C     Instant Espresso Coffee

¼ C     Ground Cumin

¼ C     Chili Powder

¼ C     Dried Oregano

2          Large Cans of Diced Tomatoes[1]

½ C     Honey

6          Large Garlic Cloves, minced

5          Cans of Beans – a mix is nice – kidney, black, red

½ C     Water

1½ C   Dry Red Wine

¼ tsp Ground Cinnamon (optional)

1          Chipotle Chili in Adobo Sauce, minced

            Celtic Salt & Pepper to taste

Toppings (optional):

Sour Cream

Grated Cheddar Cheese

Preparation:

Heat oil in a large pot over medium/high heat.   Add the onions and red bell pepper and sauté 5-8 minutes, until they are softened.  Add the coffee, chili, cumin, oregano and garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and honey.  Bring to a boil, reduce to medium/low heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the beans, water, wine, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and chipotle.  Bring to boil, reduce to medium heat and simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes; stirring as needed.  Adjust seasonings as desired.

This is best if made the day before to enhance the flavors.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream or some grated cheddar cheese.

Makes a big batch so great for a crowd or to freeze for additional meals.


[1] Muir Glen brand is organic and enamel coats their cans so the tomatoes does not give off BPA from the plastic!