Couscous Salad with Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and Mint

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Ma Belle Mere and her sister Danielle made this salad for my family on a hot summer day in the Loire Valley where we were vacationing. The crunch of cucumber, soft and fruity tomatoes, the sharp tang of capers and lemon juice and fragrant olive oil and mint were refreshing and evocative of Algeria and Italy, where Marie-Paule and Danielle originate.

Julie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup cous cous, (preferably fine grain if you can find it but medium grain will do)
  • 2 pickling cucumbers, peeled and diced small
  • 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon of small capers, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • fine sea salt to taste
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup diced green Bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves.

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Caramel and Whiskey Semifreddo

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Makes up to 10 servings

A few years ago my family and I were visiting Ville Franche, a lovely city built into a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean and very close to the Italian border.  After sunbathing, swimming in the sea and marveling at the snap shot Daniel was able to take of an octopus, with his GoPro, we set off to find food.  We settled on an Italian bistro on the boardwalk where we had a wonderful meal of fresh seafood linguini and pizza. The highlight was a caramel semifreddo with nougatine.  Happily, the chef  gave me his recipe although I added the whiskey and my own recipe for caramellized nuts.  I hope when you taste this semifreddo it will transport you to Ville Franche were you can smell the salt water and feel the sun on your face.

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To make the Semifreddo I use a 5″ x 9″ loaf pan, lined with plastic wrap and cut slices from the frozen loaf. You can also forgo lining the pan with plastic wrap (which can produce wrinkles on the final product but they are not very visible because they are on the sides, so really, who cares) but then you’ll have to either dip the mold in hot water for 10 seconds or heat the sides with a blow torch to release the semifreddo from the mold. You can of course use any other mold you like. Silicone molds are nice because they release the semifreddo easily.

Semifreddo is best served slightly softened. By the time you cut the slices and finish plating them they will be at the right consistency.

A note about the use of glucose in this recipe.  If you can’t find glucose you can substitute light corn syrup but keep in mind that corn syrup is sweeter and has more water. The additional water might affect the texture.   Honey or Golden Syrup might be an interesting substitution for the glucose with the same caveat.  Glucose syrup has a neutral flavor and the lowest water content. It can be purchased on line.

This is one of those recipes you can play with. I think a pecan nougatine would be nice Instead of the hazelnuts. It might be fun to substitute some maple syrup for the glucose syrup and black walnuts for the hazelnuts. You can also substitute another spirit for the whiskey. Cognac or calvados or Couintreau.

Julie

Whiskey Caramel Semifreddo Components

Caramel Semifreddo
Caramelized Hazelnuts
Caramel sauce

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Strawberry/Rhubarb Preserves

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Please read my page on Preserving Equipment and Technique before trying this recipe.

I love almost any kind of preserve but I rarely find a Strawberry Preserve that I like. They are almost always sickly sweet and/or overlooked and thus an ugly maroon color. However, there is nothing better on a scone slathered with Devonshire Cream and it is the favorite preserve of my oldest son After many kilos of strawberries I have one that I am proud to offer.

I prefer to use locally grown strawberries at the height of their season which is June in the Midwest. You can use strawberries from California and Florida but even they have a peak season so be sure to taste them. The strawberries should have red shoulders and should taste good eaten out of hand.

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Fig/Earl Grey Preserves

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Please read my page on preserving before attempting this recipe.

I used to limit my choice of fresh figs to the ones my Uncle grows in his back yard or those from a farmer who brings his locally grown figs, called “Chicago Hearty” to market in early September. My Uncle has several fig trees, all children of the fig tree that my Great Grandfather Ben Sala grew in his back yard in Chicago. Great Grandpa Ben grew his fig tree from a cutting he brought with him from Sicily when he immigrated to Chicago, Illinois in 1920. Lately, I’ve been able to find very nice Black Mission figs from California at our local whole foods and they are making very good preserves. Make sure you taste one before you invest in making preserves. They should have some flavor although the flavor will intensify with cooking.

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My family has a long standing love affair with Earl Grey tea. It’s one of my favorite teas to drink. My husbands favorite cake from his childhood was an Earl Grey pound cake from Dalloyau Patisserie in Paris. While they don’t make that pound cake anymore they do make an Earl Grey macaroon which my son loves. I created this preserve for the men in my life.

Julie

FIG/ EARL GREY PRESERVES

  • 1000 grams fresh local figs
  • 800 grams superfine sugar ( Depending on the sweetness of the figs you can reduce to 750 grams but don’t go below that or you’ll risk the integrity of the color and texture).
  • pinch of salt
  • 60 grams fresh lemon juice ( save the rinds, seeds and membranes from the lemons for your pectin bag)
  • 1 Tablespoon of premium Earl Grey tea. I use Earl Grey Royale from The Tea House that has real pieces of bergamot in the tea and not just oil.
    You will also need:
  • A preserving pan
  • An unbleached, food grade muslin bag about 5″x7″.
  • six 6 oz glass jars with lug tops lined with Plastisol ( you will probably only get 5 but I always sterilize an extra one)
  • a 3 quart heat proof container
  • a piece of parchment paper cut to the size of the top of the 3 quart container
  • A heat proof measuring cup
  • a wood skewer
  • a lint free kitchen towel

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