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June 23, 2011

Moroccan Couscous Salad with Saffron and Cinnamon

I tend to shy away from couscous. I blame a college friend who turned her nose up it saying, "Couscous? Sounds too much like goose poop." Ever since, whenever I see couscous that memory comes to mind (and perhaps will for you now, too. You're welcome. [Wow, this post is certainly off to a questionable start]). All joking aside, couscous has just never been very exciting to me.

Enter: Israeli couscous.

The standard itty bitty couscous may have never excited me, but I just discovered that his big brother Israeli couscous does! It is not just me, I served this salad at a picnic and received many positive comments and requests for the recipe. Confirmed crowd pleaser! Trust me and give your favorite summer pasta salad a makeover with Israeli couscous, or better yet, try this salad.

This recipe is inspired by a store-bought version that my dad served at his Memorial Day picnic. The combination of textures and flavors is just right. Light citrus and a touch of sweetness, tied together with the warm flavors of cumin, saffron, and cinnamon. The flavors are even better the second day, so I encourage you to make this a day ahead. The plump beads of couscous hold up very well overnight, something that I wouldn't expect as much from the itty bitty variety.

Moroccan Couscous Salad with Saffron and Cinnamon
Serves 10-12 as a side dish

2 cups Israeli couscous
3-1/3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp saffron threads
15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced 1/4" thick (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped in 1" pieces
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped fine

6 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp agave
3/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 3 minutes. Add dry couscous and toast for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in vegetable stock and saffron and turn up heat to bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and set aside to cool.

Prepare mix-ins and whisk together dressing ingredients. Wait until the couscous has cooled, and then gently toss with the toppings and dressing until well incorporated. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, and fully chill before serving. For best results chill overnight to allow the flavors to meld--in which case keep the almonds separate to prevent them from softening. The salad may also benefit from an additional tablespoon of lemon juice and olive oil in the morning, as most of the dressing will be absorbed into the couscous overnight. Test first to see if this is necessary.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway to win a copy of Vegan Desserts! A random number generator selected lucky number 59. Congrats to Carrie of Moves 'N Munchies! Email me your address and I'll get your book out to you right away.

June 14, 2011

Review and Giveaway: Hannah Kaminsky's Vegan Desserts

If you have been reading my blog since the title ordinary vegetarian actually fit me, you might remember my first vegan baking experience. Armed with a copy of Hannah Kaminky's My Sweet Vegan, I was well equipped for my task. Since then I became vegan, and my interest in vegan baking immediately followed. Hannah has been a favorite source for vegan dessert recipes through both her blog and e-books ever since, so you can imagine how excited I was to learn about the release of her second cookbook, Vegan Desserts!

A worthy collection of sophisticated yet approachable desserts, conveniently divided by season. The book features over 100 recipes, each accompanied by the most tempting full color image photographed by Hannah herself. I have had my copy for two months now, and have already enjoyed several recipes.

Irish Crème Squares
I cheated and baked from the winter section first since I had all of the ingredients for the Irish Crème Squares on hand. This is definitely a grown up dessert, unless your young ones enjoy the flavors of coffee and whiskey. As for myself, I couldn't resist! The coffee and whiskey infused cream layer is perfectly complimented by the cocoa almond crust. Hear, hear for boozy desserts!

Marbled Chocolate and Zucchini Bread
For my first springtime selection I went with the Marbled Chocolate and Zucchini Bread. This dessert bread is a real treat. It is sweet, moist, and cakey--sweeter than more traditional zucchini breads I have tried. This was my first marbled baked good, and I was so pleased with the way that the beautiful swirls of chocolate turned out. I am anticipating having too many zucchinis on my hands soon, and looking forward to putting them to good use in more loaves of this bread!

Coco-Nut Macaroons
I sampled a second dessert from the spring section -- the Coco-Nut Macaroons. Coco-Nut is hyphenated because the Nut is actually crunchy peanut butter. The peanut butter flavor is second to coconut, but is undoubtedly the oomph that pushes these macaroons over the edge. That and the chocolate dipped bases! These were perfectly dense, chewy, and rich--honestly the only coconut macaroon recipe I'll ever need. I mean, coco-nut! 

Mango Tango Cupcakes
Moving on from springtime delights to a perfect summery treat (and the cutest name in the book!), Mango Tango Cupcakes. This inventive cupcake has two pureed mangoes in the batter, along with a helping of chopped macadamia nuts. If you aren't sold on that alone, then the rum cream cheese frosting should convince you! Oh yes, that's perfection.

I am sorry for teasing you with all of these amazing treats, but I have a peace offering. After receiving a copy of this book, the opportunity for a signed copy from Hannah presented itself and I couldn't turn it down. As much as I love this book, I don't need two copies and would love to offer my first copy to one of you. I will ship the winner this copy personally, anywhere in the world you might be. That's right, a no-restriction giveaway, hooray! As always, several ways to enter, leave 1 comment for each entry:

1. Leave a comment, any comment!
2. Follow me on twitter.
3. Like me on facebook.
4. Follow my blog here or by email (see sidebar)
5. Tweet "Enter to win a copy of Hannah Kaminsky's Vegan Desserts from @ordinaryveg!"

Good luck! Winner to be announced the first day of summer--Tuesday, June 21 (just in time to make the Peaches and Crème Breakfast Buns, what what!)!