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Black Olive and Arugula Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

Ever heard of Israeli couscous? This “couscous”—in fact a pasta made with wheat flour—is a wonderfully versatile foundation on which to build tasty warm or cold dishes. Also called Jerusalem or pearl couscous, the chewy pasta absorbs surrounding flavors without ever losing its shape and texture or clumping together, possibly making it the ultimate ingredient for prepare-ahead salads. In this recipe, the beads soak in the rich roasted tomato dressing and elegantly mingle with crunchy cucumbers, pungent black olives, earthy parsley, and peppery arugula. It’s a bright and gorgeous salad: one that screams for you to put together a picnic on a warm summer day. Bring along a bottle of rosé wine from Provence, and you’re in for a treat!

Black Olives and Arugula Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette // FoodNouveau.com

Makes 4 side-dish portions

For the roasted cherry tomatoes
2 cups (about 12 oz) [500 ml/340 g] cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp [15 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, left unpeeled
½ tsp [2.5 ml] sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the vinaigrette
2 tbsp [30 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp [30 ml] water
1 tbsp [15 ml] white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 tbsp [15 ml] freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ tsp [2.5 ml] sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

For the couscous
1 tbsp [15 ml] olive oil
1 cup [250 ml] Israeli (or Jerusalem, or pearl) couscous
1 ¾ cups [425 ml] water
¼ cup [60 ml] Kalamata black olives, pitted and chopped
½ cup [125 ml] Lebanese cucumbers (or English cucumbers), diced
¼ cup [60 ml] chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 handfuls arugula (rocket) leaves
1 tsp [5 ml] chopped fresh thyme leaves

To roast the cherry tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 300°F [150°C]. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Halve the cherry tomatoes and place in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper and mix carefully to coat the tomatoes without crushing them. Spread on a single layer on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Tuck the unpeeled garlic clove in-between the tomatoes and roast in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until they have shrunk in size and are slightly shriveled around the edges. Let cool completely in the pan.

To make the vinaigrette: Once the roasted cherry tomatoes are completely cool, place half the tomatoes, the peeled roasted garlic clove (it will be very soft now), and all the vinaigrette ingredients in a tall measuring cup. Puree with a hand blender until you reach a smooth and silky consistency (you can also do this in a blender). Reserve.

To make the couscous: Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the Israeli couscous and stir until the beads are toasted and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the water. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the couscous is al dente (soft with a bite). Note: You might need to use more or less water, depending on the brand of Israeli couscous you’re using. Please refer to the manufacturer instructions. If you taste the couscous and you feel it’s done but there’s still water in the pan, drain it. Let the cooked couscous cool completely.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the couscous, black olives, and diced cucumber together. Add a few tablespoons of dressing and toss to distribute the dressing evenly. Add the parsley, arugula, thyme leaves and reserved roasted cherry tomatoes. Toss carefully just to mix the ingredients together. Taste, adjust seasoning, and add more dressing if needed. You can alternatively serve the extra dressing in a jar so your guests can add more to taste.

Serve immediately. If making the salad in advance, keep the arugula out and toss it into the salad just before serving.

Recipe Credit: Inspired by a recipe by Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen

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Visiting Paris with a Baby

Place des Vosges, one of the best picnic spots in Paris // FoodNouveau.com

Last year, we went on a trip to Paris with our then-7-month-old baby. It was a long trip to undertake, but we wanted to quickly get some practice at travelling as a family and Paris seemed like the perfect place to do so. And guess what—we actually enjoyed the vacation. Travelling abroad with an infant is a big (huge!) project, but it’s totally doable if you plan ahead.

Before leaving, I had tons of questions so I did a lot of research. I came back feeling like we successfully passed a crash course in family travel, so I thought it would be useful to share my experience. Here’s the post I wish I had read before I left for Paris—with advice that will be useful for any other European destination.

Please note that I am NOT sponsored by any of the companies I recommend below. I’m just a nerd when it comes to travel planning and I thought that my experience might be useful to other parents too.

Jardin des Tuileries, a huge, kid-friendly park in Paris // FoodNouveau.com
Jardin des Tuileries, a huge, kid-friendly park in Paris.

What to Bring

It’s hard to travel light with a baby, but keep in mind that in Paris, you’ll find everything you’re used to buying at home. You can keep luggage weight under control by bringing the minimum number of diapers and wipes and buy formula, purees, and snacks on site. The range of products offered is just as wide as it is in North America, if not wider.
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Chocolate and Hazelnut Pots de Crème

Company is coming, and you want to serve dessert. You don’t feel like embarking on a time-consuming baking project, yet you don’t want to serve anything ready-made. Think making an impressive dessert in 15 minutes is mission impossible? Well, think again. Make these pots de crème once, and they will become a classic. Your guests will swoon over the silky texture, the rich flavor, and the indulgent nature of this quick and easy dessert. What’s more, they will ask you to make “those amazing pots de crème” again when they return to your home for another meal. You will become renowned for these; in fact, they will do wonders for your culinary reputation. It’s the little black dress of desserts: just whip it and forget it. But do make sure you carefully keep the recipe a secret so nobody knows you actually spent the afternoon sipping cocktails.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Pots de Crème // FoodNouveau.com

Chocolate and Hazelnut Pots de Crème

Serves 6

3.5 oz [100 g] dark chocolate, chopped
½ cup [125 ml] hazelnut spread (such as Nutella, see notes)
¼ cup [60 ml] granulated sugar
1 tsp [5 ml] cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 cup [250 ml] milk
1 cup [250 ml] heavy cream

To serve (optional):
Toasted and chopped hazelnuts
Whipped cream
Fresh fruits, such as raspberries, cherries, strawberries, apricots, figs, or pears (see notes)

In a large bowl, add the chopped dark chocolate and hazelnut spread. Reserve.

In a saucepan off the heat, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Whisk in the egg yolks. Add the milk and cream and mix thoroughly. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, mixing constantly and scraping down the sides and bottom of the pan so the mixture doesn’t stick. Once the mixture boils (it won’t take more than a minute or two), bring the heat down to a minimum and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it has thickened to a custard consistency.

Pour through a sieve and into the bowl containing the chopped chocolate and hazelnut spread. Let sit for a minute, then whisk until smooth.

Pour into 6 glasses or bowls (½ cup [125 ml] capacity). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or until the cream has completely cooled down.

Top with whipped cream, fresh fruits, and toasted hazelnuts, if desired. The assembled pots de crème can keep for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. Take them out to room temperature 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Pots de Crème // FoodNouveau.com

Notes:

  • If you don’t have hazelnut spread on hand, substitute 2.5 oz [70 g] dark or milk chocolate.
  • Use whatever fruit is perfectly ripe and on season. Larger fruits can be cut in slivers or diced; I like to pour half the chocolate cream, add some fruits, pour the rest of the mixture over, then top with more fruit once the cream is cool. It makes for a fresh surprise while enjoying the dessert!

Recipe Credit: Adapted from Ricardo Magazine.

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Crispy and Raw Kale, Beets, and Pecan Salad

Is it spring yet? Not here in Quebec City, it’s not. No flowers or even buds are in sight yet, and it’s been raining for several days straight—which, in a way, is good because it made our several feet-high snowbanks melt in a flash. Every year, from late March, we know we’re over the extreme cold and the snow storms, but nature’s still sleeping tightly, so we’re stuck just walking in the slush and the dirt until mid-May. This yearly in-between season is the hardest time of the year for me. Everyone’s saying, “Summer’s finally coming!” like an incantation, and we talk about the summer festivals and the lazy afternoons on terraces and the barbecued meals, but there are still so many weeks to go through before any of that happens.

While the Internet is ablaze with fresh spring recipes, cocktail ideas, and grilling tips, I’m still craving comforting dishes, but I do want to see some bright colors on the plate. This crunchy, earthy, salty, and sweet salad makes for a nice hearty meal with a glass of Chardonnay and a thick slice of bread—a meal that we still have to enjoy by the fireside but helps us hang tight ‘till the summer salads finally come around.

A note about this recipe’s two kale textures: Mixing raw and crispy baked kale adds a very interesting dimension to the dish, but you can skip the crispy kale altogether and just use raw. But since the oven’s on, why not make kale chips too? It only takes 5 minutes!

Crispy and Raw Kale, Beets, and Pecan Salad // FoodNouveau.com

Crispy and Raw Kale, Beets, and Pecan Salad

Makes 4 appetizers or 2 mains 

2 tbsp [30 ml] extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp [5 ml] red wine vinegar
1 tsp [5 ml] Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
A pinch of sea salt

For the roasted beets
3 large beets (1 lb [454 g]), peeled and cut into 1-in [2-cm] cubes
1 tbsp [15 ml] olive oil
2 tbsp [30 ml] maple syrup
Sea salt and black pepper

For the salad
6 cups [1.4 L] raw kale, tough stems removed, leaves chopped in wide strips
1 tsp [5 ml] olive oil
4 slices of cooked bacon, chopped in bite-sized pieces
Parmigiano-reggiano cheese
A generous handful of Spicy & Sweet Cocktail Pecans

Make the dressing: Add all the dressing ingredients in an airtight glass container (such as a small Mason jar). Shake vigorously and let rest for a while. The dressing is best if prepared at least an hour in advance.

Prepare the roasted beets and the kale chips: Preheat oven to 400°F [200°C] and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the cubed beets in a mixing bowl and add the olive oil, the maple syrup, a generous pinch of sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix well so the beets are well coated with the oil and syrup mixture. Spread the beets in a single layer on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet and roast for about 40 minutes, or until you can pierce the beets easily with the tip of a knife.

While the beets are roasting, line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Put 2 cups of the chopped kale leaves in a mixing bowl, and add 1 tsp [5 ml] olive oil. Using your hands, rub the leaves together so they are all lightly coated with olive oil. Spread the kale leaves on the second parchment paper-lined baking sheet and sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt. Five minutes before the end of the beets cooking time, add the kale to the oven. Toast until the kale is lightly browned but still bright green. Be careful not to burn it—the kale will finish crisping up while cooling.

Take the kale and the beets out of the oven and let both roasted veggies cool completely at room temperature, at least 30 minutes.

Assemble the salad: In a salad bowl, mix together the raw kale, beets, pecans, and bacon bits. Add dressing to your liking. Divide between plates and top each serving with parmigiano-reggiano shavings and crispy kale chips. Serve immediately.

Recipe Credit: Marie Asselin. The recipe was previously published in French by Fou des foodies.

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{Book Review} Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City

A street in Rome // FoodNouveau.com

A while back, an acquaintance asked me how I go about planning trips. This simple question actually required me to pause and figure out what is, in fact, my process. I love trip planning so much, it may be half the pleasure I gain from traveling. The research, the readings, the post-its, and the bookings: all these steps build the anticipation months before I step on a flight to a new adventure.

I typically begin with a couple of guidebooks, enabling me to map out a destination in my mind. Reading them cover to cover helps me build the itinerary and visualize the layout of the cities we will be visiting. After I complete a trip’s first draft, I dig deeper. I search for the less obvious destinations and attractions in newspapers, magazines, and online and read books that might not be guidebooks per se but that do provide priceless information on a destination, either through its history or through the food made by its people.

The Tiber River in Rome // FoodNouveau.com

Elizabeth Minchilli’s brand new book is one such resource. A 240+ page full-color tome, Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City is not your typical guidebook. Chapters are organized by themes that promise to reveal the secrets to live like a Roman, such as “Shopping in the Markets of Rome” and “Learning to Love Roman Pastries.” To the age-old saying, When in Rome . . . I say, learn how to behave like a local. The Italians do day-to-day activities in extremely specific ways, so a visitor trying to complete a simple task such as ordering coffee can quickly get lost in translation.

I should know: I once spent a half hour waiting for my order in a packed bakery in Rome, with local patrons and servers whizzing past and shooting me impatient looks. I simply could not understand why others were being served while I was not, despite that I had already paid for my order. Mercifully, a kind soul finally explained that after paying for my order, I had neglected to take a miniature piece of paper that I had assumed was a discardable receipt and give it to the woman who was tasked to put my order together. So I returned to the register, grabbed my receipt from the cashier—who had probably taken bets on just how long it would take for me to come back for it—and handed it to the pastry counter server, who, with eyebrows raised, gave me a heavy congrats-you-figured-it-out look. I received my order but continued to wait for the coffees.Continue Reading