Pretty In Pink

A happy accident occurred in our kitchen this past weekend. And it’s one that turned out to be quite pretty. Take a look.

Beet and Couscous Salad by

Beet and Couscous Salad by

I’ll admit, when I started, I had no idea where the dish was going to end up. All I knew was that I had some big, beautiful beets and I was going to make something with them. I started by roasting the beets along with some radishes (you know how much we love those now) and then just started pulling other additions from the pantry. The result was a bright, beautiful couscous salad. The beets tinted everything a lovely shade of pink that really helps this dish pop aesthetically. The pepitas add an unexpected crunch and the caramelized shallots add a nice sweetness. I definitely recommend you give this one a try.

Roasting the beets and radishes (we made two packets that looked like this for this dish) (

Roasting the beets and radishes (we made two packets that looked like this for this dish) (

Beet and Couscous Salad

Makes about 8 servings

  • 3/4 pound beets
  • 1/2 pound radishes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup roasted pepitas
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fruity olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the beets and radishes on a piece of foil and top with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Fold the sides of the foil up and secure. Roast for 60 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool. When beets are cool to the touch, use your fingers (wear gloves to prevent staining your skin) to remove the skin and discard. Dice the beets and radishes and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, prepare Israeli couscous according to package directions. Once made, let cool to room temperature.

3. Heat a small pan over medium-low. Add the butter and let melt. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 20 minutes or until caramelized. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside to cool to room temperature. Once cooled, roughly chop and set aside.

4. In a large bowl, combine the beets, radishes, Israeli couscous, shallots, pepitas, dried cranberries and the parsley or cilantro. Top with the fruity olive oil and red wine vinegar. Toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pretty In Pink: Beet and Couscous Salad by

Pretty In Pink: Beet and Couscous Salad by

SWWU Tip 1: I found that this salad tastes best at room temperature. If you refrigerate leftovers, just bring to temperature on the counter 30 minutes prior to serving.

SWWU Tip 2: Don’t have one of the ingredients on hand? Replace the pepitas with walnuts or almond slivers. Swap golden raisins for the dried cranberries. Use fresh min instead of cilantro or parsley. Play around a bit and have some fun. 

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Just a Bite

Brian and I attended a lovely potluck picnic in the park this weekend. Sure, we had lots of ideas for yummy things to make, but none of them were quite right for this event. We needed something that wouldn’t melt (chocolate desserts were out), didn’t need utensils to be enjoyed (who knew what the hosts would have on hand), it needed to be super portable (we were going to have to walk to our destination) and we needed to whip it up the morning of the event. I decided to experiment with a cheddar corn muffin that I’ve made dozens of times before. But this time, I added in some fresh basil (thanks to my coworker’s garden) and a bit of tomato paste and reduced the serving size.

Tomato, Cheddar and Basil Bites

Tomato, Cheddar and Basil Bites by

The end result was quite fun. The mini muffins had a flavor reminiscent of a fancy pizza, but the basil really freshened up the whole experience. The size of these also turned out to be a bonus. The potluck was filled with so many yummy treats that everyone wanted to try. I’m glad they could enjoy just a bite of our dish and then go back for seconds if they had room later. I came home with an empty tray, so I guess they did!

Tomato, Cheddar and Basil Bites

Makes about 3 dozen

  • 1 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Fill a mini muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix until well combined and set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the eggs and buttermilk. Slowly whisk in the cooled melted butter. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two batches, mixing well between each. Stir in the tomato paste until well combined and then fold in the cheddar cheese and basil. Fill prepared muffin pan with batter (each cup should be 3/4 of the way full) and cook for 11 to 13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a cooling rack. Repeat until remaining batter is used up.

SWWU Tip Make sure these have plenty of time to sit before you serve them, about 6 hours. If you dig in too soon (like I did), they won’t have enough time to cool and the paper liners will stick.

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Tea Time

I grew up in Florida where a cool, refreshing glass of sweet tea could be found almost anywhere. Every restaurant offers diners a choice between sweet or unsweet, Publix (the grocery store of choice) makes a great house brew and everyone has a homemade recipe that they swear by. Unfortunately, things changed the moment I moved to New York. It’s hard to find a classic glass of sweet tea around here and when you do, they’ve usually tried to do something fancy to it like add a bunch of unnecessary mint or another flavor that takes away from this simple treat. This weekend I whipped up my own pitcher of sweet tea and it couldn’t have been more delicious!

Southern Sweet Tea with Lemon Ice Cubes by

Southern Sweet Tea with Lemon Ice Cubes by

I don’t make the tea very often (it is LOADED with sugar!) so I did a few things to make it extra special. First, I added a pinch of baking soda to cut the bitterness you can sometimes taste with iced tea. Second, I used Red Rose tea bags—the only kind my Grandma would approve of. And, finally, I did a little something special to the ice cubes. I guess some of that NYC fanciness rubbed off on me after all!

Southern Sweet Tea with Lemon Ice Cubes

Makes about 10 cups

  • 1 lemon
  • pinch baking soda
  • 7 tea bags
  • 1 cup sugar

1. Slice the lemon into thick rounds then cut each one into quarters. Add about two pieces to each well of an ice cube tray, fill with water and freeze.

2. Meanwhile, add the baking soda to a large pitcher. Set aside.

3. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Then, add the tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea bags, and stir in the sugar until dissolved. Set aside to cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Add cooled tea to pitcher and top with about 4 cups cold water (use more or less depending on the size of your pitcher and how strong you would like your brew). Chill in the fridge until ready to serve over the lemon ice cubes.

SWWU Tip 1: Craving a more sophisticated flavor? Use vanilla-flavored sugar instead. Check out our easy recipe.

SWWU Tip 2: Tie all of your tea bags together (as shown in the photo above) so you can retrieve them easily once the brewing is complete.

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Perfect Pasta Salad

A proper salad needs just the right balance of textures, flavors and colors. Sometimes this requires you to combine what seems like a million different ingredients, and other times you need just a few. Luckily, you only need a handful of classic ingredients to make the simple, flavor-filled pasta salad below.

Tortellini and String Bean Salad by

Tortellini and String Bean Salad by

The recipe I created makes enough for a crowd and is a great option to serve at a picnic or backyard barbecue. More often than not though, I have this dish on hand so I can take a tasty, refreshing lunch to the office. It travels well, tastes great chilled or at room temperature and it’s far from another boring salad or sandwich.

Tortellini and String Bean Salad

Makes about 8 servings

  • 1 pound string beans (I used a combination of green and yellow), ends trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 packages (about 13-ounces each) tortellini (I used tri-color cheese tortellini)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the string beans and cook for 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from heat and plunge into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process, drain and set aside.

2. Bring the water back to a boil and add the tortellini. Cook according to package directions, drain and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and honey. Mix until well combined. Taste and add salt and pepper as desired. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, combine the string beans, tortellini and tomatoes. Add dressing and toss to coat. Let flavors develop for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

SWWU Tip: The tasty balsamic vinaigrette used for this dish also tastes great over greens or as a dressing for chicken. 

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In a Hot Minute

It’s almost impossible to buy just one or two jalapeños at a time in the stores near our home. Instead, the spicy little peppers are always sold in bags containing eight to nine. Who needs that many at once? Not me! We recently had a few extra floating around our fridge for about a week, and I was determined to put them to good use.

Quick-Pickled Jalapenos by

Quick-Pickled Jalapeños by

I decided to experiment with a quick pickling technique I usually use for cucumbers. I adjusted the recipe a bit, with the major changes being the addition of lime and garlic. I have to admit, I was quite pleased with the results. They tasted slightly sweet with a spicy kick at the end. They were the perfect addition to the condiment tray at our recent picnic.

Quick-Pickled Jalapeños at a picnic (

Quick-Pickled Jalapeños at a picnic (

I could also see them being a tasty ingredient to add to grilled cheese, a unique topping for pizza or a welcome addition to some morning eggs.

Quick-Pickled Jalapeños

Makes about 10 servings

  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4 jalapeños, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

1. In a small bowl or glass jar, combine the apple cider vinegar, lime juice, salt and sugar. Whisk until sugar is dissolved.

2. Add the jalapeños and garlic to the liquid and toss to coat. Make sure there is enough liquid for all of the jalapeños to be submerged. If not, add more apple cider vinegar. Leave on counter for 30 to 60 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so. Transfer to the fridge until ready to use.

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