Earlier this week I had the pleasure of speaking to the wonderful Women of Hadassah in Southern California. This group of women’s entire focus is to connect and empower women to effect change. They are in fact #WomenWhoDo. They are on the frontlines for healthcare and cures for cancer and advocating for women’s rights.
These women are intelligent and engaging so I took a page from my friend, Robert Schueller’s, playbook. I talked about “sexy veggies” and aphrodisiac vegetables. I was surprised to learn, from Robert, that some vegetables have genders. Things like eggplant, avocado and bell peppers have a male and female fruit. These are plants that you need to have both to flower and bloom in your garden. The best way to insure that is to ask at your local nursery.
We also talked about aphrodisiac vegetables. There is a lot of talk about this on the internet. I have a very simple philosophy about it. If a fruit or vegetable evokes a “feeling” in you because of the way it looks, smells or tastes, it is an aphrodisiac. If it evokes a memory in you that can cause an arousal, it is an aphrodisiac. Very simple!
Asparagus Legume Bell Pepper Salad
You can easily add chicken or steak to make this more of a meal.
You can use the peppers, either raw or roasted. To roast:
Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, leave an extended edge. Place whole peppers, in a single layer, on the foil and place baking sheet about 6" from broiler. Broil until lightly charred, using tongs to rotate peppers until all sides are charred. Draw foil around peppers and remove from oven. Close foil packet for 5 minutes or so. Once the peppers are cool enough to touch, peel peppers and discard seeds. Slice ninto 1/4" strips.
Blanch asparagus until just tender (al dente). You can do this step before or after you cut into 1" pieces. Set aside.
Make the dressing:
In a large bowl, whisk together garlic, lemon juice, oregano, basil and salt& pepper. Whisk in olive oil, slowly. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Add greens to salad dressing bowl and toss, slightly. Add in garbanzo beans, pepper strips and olives, toss well. Add asparagus and toss gently. Sprinkle feta cheese on top and plate to serve.
I am in a purging mood! We recently did some remodel work on our house. You know how that goes and how much packing and unpacking I was doing, almost, every day. It was a good opportunity to get rid or donate “stuff” we weren’t really using anymore.
A good friend pointed out to me that I have cookbooks, literally, in every room in my house. Some of you might put the old People Magazine in the bathroom, for light reading, I put cookbooks! So, when this same friend suggested I make a library of cookbooks, in my office, I was all in. Of course, that meant hours of deciding which would stay and which would go. It also meant getting reacquainted with some of my older “friends” and saying goodbye to the friends you didn’t really keep in touch with.
So, my task began. The first things that went were the cookbooks, put together by my kids elementary or pre-schools. I asked myself were there any recipes in them that I couldn’t just pick up the phone and ask for if I really wanted them. I did go through those books just to make sure. The next group to go were the “souvenir” books. I bought cookbooks at restaurants as I traveled across the country and some were really good. Others, I bought because I loved the meal and really believed I would recreate it at home. Well, not so much. And so, the purging project went.
I finally had whittled it down to one pile of books that I really wanted to go through and spend some time with. I’m so glad I did. There were some great finds. One of the books I saved is “Raising the Salad Bar”, by Catherine Walthers. I initially bought this book in 2010, after a friend used it more than once, during my week-long visit to her summer home. I admit I was skeptical when I heard it was a salad cookbook, but each salad was more memorable than the last.
Thumbing through this book was like reminiscing with an old friend. The pictures were beautiful, and the recipes reminded me of a glorious summer on Cape Cod. I love the way Catherine has organized the recipes so that the reader learns to think about salads more openly. Each salad has a dressing attached that brilliantly balances the fat and acid with your fresh greens and grains. Additionally, she has a whole section on dressings.
It has been so hot here in L.A. that I made the Couscous Salad with Lemon-Soaked Grilled Chicken for dinner, last week. It was perfect! Fresh and lemony with just the right amount of smoky grill flavor. My family loves lemon but with a little sweeter undertone than this recipe originally gave. I added a little brown sugar to the “marinade”. I also added a little bit of chopped mint at the end to add some brightness. And by the way, go for the asiago cheese. It has a similar flavor profile to Parmigiano but with an added smokiness.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and it reminds you to spend some time with old friends and even the new treasures.
Couscous Salad with Lemon-Soaked Grilled Chicken
Adapted from Catherine Walthers Raising the Salad Bar.
In a large bowl (I use Ziploc bags) toss chicken with garlic, salt, pepper, parsley, lemon juice and reserved rinds.
Let marinade for at least 2 hours in refrigerator, When ready to use remove from marinade and discard marinade and rinds.
Preheat grill to high heat. Grill chicken for 7 minutes first side. Remember to not move chicken to get a nice caramelized crust. Turn chicken over and cook for 5 more minutes.
Cook couscous in chicken broth according to package instructions. Test a little early. You want the couscous to be al dente. Remove from heat and drain. Leave some of the liquid (broth) in the pan and immediately add onions. Cook onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add spinach to pan and toss, lightly, over heat. Add olive oil and toss together. Occasionally toss couscous to cool.
When couscous is cooler, add garlic, parsley, lemon juice and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add salt if needed.
To serve, plate spinach then couscous and top with chicken. Sprinkle asiago cheese over top and a sprinkling of more fresh parsley. Garnish with sliced lemons or lemon zest.