Couscous Salad with Kale, Harissa and Roasted Vegetables

Coucous Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Harissa

This salad was inspired by my friend Jane and her sneaky tub of pepper-spiked harissa that made the journey all the way from DC to California without too much leakage.

Harissa is a paste made of chili peppers ground with spices, oil and garlic, that’s a wildly popular condiment in North Africa.  Here it adds flavor plus a touch of heat to an easy dinner salad.  In summer we’ll turn to sweet, juicy raw tomatoes, but in early spring roasted cherry or grape tomatoes are the way to go.

You’ll find harissa and Israeli couscous at Whole Foods or other specialty markets.  Harissa varies in strength from one version to another, so be sure to taste and add as much as you dare.

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This classic Italian vegetable stew is hearty and heathy—loaded with beans, leafy greens and a comforting layer of artisan bread at the bottom of the bowl.  You can vary the ingredients depending on what you find in the market, or tucked into the crisper drawer at home.  Try a bit of zucchini or cauliflower.  Turnips or parsnips would be perfect, too.  A Parmesan cheese rind (an inch or two) tossed into the broth, as the soup simmers, is an old Italian trick that adds wonderful flavor.  But no worries if you don’t have one, just add a bit more salt and a healthy sprinkling of Parmesan on each serving.

Ribollita is more of a stew than a soup, if you prefer something more brothy, simply add a bit more stock (or water combined with a tablespoon or two of tomato paste) to the mix—up to two cups.

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Kale and Lemon Ricotta Tartine

Kale and Ricotta Tartine

This dish has us shaking our heads in disbelief.  One bite, and now we actually crave kale on a sandwich.  Those chewy, ultra healthy leaves.  What just happened?

This is an improvised version of my friend Lauren’s killer, kale-topped, lemon-ricotta toast—our current go-to lunch-dinner-late-night-snack favorite.  Lauren is one of my inspirations in the kitchen—a busy doctor who somehow carves out time to lovingly tend cabbage roses, bake moist cake with a tender crumb, can jars of sweet homemade jam (from her backyard trees, of course), transform sautéed kale into tasty bites—and talk intelligently about any number of interesting topics, all the while.  Move over Martha.

Any sandwich this special has earned a bit of flourish in its name—even a self-important swagger on the plate.  Though in truth, a tartine is nothing more than an open-faced sandwich.  To be precise, a French one.

The proportions here rely on taste, since that’s how Lauren does it.  Don’t be afraid to dip a spoon in, see what you think and adjust to your personal preference.  Be sure to use fresh ricotta—as opposed to the processed, supermarket variety.

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Kale Salad with Carrot, Orange, Pomegranate and Citrus-Tahini Dressing

Kale salads are all the rage these days—packed with uber-healthy, raw nutrients.  Still, some diners remain on the fence, given the leaf’s chewy texture.  Kale lovers know a few tricks to soften things up and win the skeptics over.  A few fruity additions are sure to help.

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Mini Pumpkins: beyond jack-o-lantern

Pumpkins and October. What more needs to be said? Except that pumpkins offer more than just the usual Halloween fun. You can certainly scoop out the seeds and carve a jack-o-latern, but how about stuffing one instead? Or roast thick slices and toss into a green salad. Sauté the orange cubes with onions, or a few spices, add vegetable stock and purée the lot—velvety soup is on the way. And who can resist the fiery hue? Plus fall’s most beloved squash is packed with healthy nutrients like alpha and beta-carotene and Vitamin C. Pumpkin has something for everyone to love—from Dr. Mom to the candy-coveting, trick-or-treater in the house.

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