(Vegetarian) Israeli Couscous with Fresh Vegetables, Harissa and Mint

Two kinds of couscous (pearled and Israeli whole wheat) are sautéed in olive oil, then simmered in a rich, homemade vegetable stock flavored with harissa and fresh mint and tossed with a medley of lightly-cooked, seasonal vegetables..

Israeli Couscous with Fresh Vegetables, Harissa and Mint

1/2 cup pearled couscous
1/2 cup Israeli whole wheat couscous (Ptitim)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups homemade vegetable stock, boiling
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa
1 small bunch fresh mint, chopped
2 carrots, cut into small, oblique shapes, about 1/2 cup
1-2 large spring onions, including green tops, bias-cut, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup fresh green peas
1 fresh tomato, chopped
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Sauté couscous in olive oil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to coat evenly.  Add boiling vegetable stock and harissa, reduce to a simmer and cook until nearly all the liquid has been absorbed, about 8 minutes.  Stir in peas and mint, cover and remove from heat.

Sauté carrots, garlic and onions in olive oil,  stirring frequently until just softened.  Stir in tomatoes and cook 1 minute longer.

Stir cooked vegetables into warm couscous and serve garnished with fresh mint.  Offer harissa on the side if desired.

This post is part of Meatless Monday, a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health

Pan-roasted Quail with Black Fig/Bacon Demi-glace over Piccolo Farrotto

Pastured quail from Bandera, Texas are dry-brined with sea salt containing sage, rosemary and black pepper, then allowed to air dry in the refrigerator for two hours.  The quail is quickly pan-roasted in a small spoonful each of rendered bacon fat and rendered chicken fat until the skin is crisp and the flesh is slightly pink.  Served over a bed of stock-simmered farro with roasted vegetables, and topped with a chicken demi-glace with black figs, bacon and roasted spring onion..

Pan-roasted Quail with Black Fig/Bacon Demi-glace over Piccolo Farrotto

For the Sauce (about 1 cup)

1-1/2 cups rich, homemade chicken stock, divided
2 tablespoons roasted chicken demi-glace
1/3 cup black figs, trimmed and quartered
4 pieces thick cut, smoked bacon
roasted spring onions (from the Farro recipe), coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon pan drippings (from the quail)
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, stripped and bruised

Heat the chicken stock in a skillet over medium-low heat until simmering.  Add the demi-glace, stir to combine and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and cook until nicely browned.  Transfer bacon to the side to drain, reserving the bacon fat for the next recipe.

Just before service, add the bacon, figs, rosemary and onion and allow to heat through, about 5 minutes.

For the Piccolo Farrotto (adapted from a recipe by Anson Mills)

1 cup farro piccolo
1 quart rich, homemade chicken stock
2-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 fresh bay leaf
2 stalks fresh celery
4 small, fresh carrots, trimmed
2 small spring onions, trimmed (reserved)
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Roast the carrots, celery and onion in a 375 degree oven until browned, about 45 minutes. Set aside.

Turn the farro into a food processor and give it ten 1-second pulses to crack some of the bran that encases the grains. Transfer it to a small bowl.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and keep the stock just below a simmer as you cook the farro.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed 3- or 4-quart saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the minced shallots and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the farro, increase the heat to medium, and stir until the grains are hot and coated with butter, about 1 minute. Stir in the wine and simmer until reduced to a glaze. Add the bay leaf and 1 cup of hot chicken stock and stir once to make sure the grains are covered with liquid. Cook the farro uncovered at the barest simmer; when the liquid has been almost entirely absorbed and the farro begins to look dry, add about 1/2 cup of hot stock, stir once, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the farro once again begins to look dry. Continue to cook the farro in this fashion for 1 hour. Coarsley chop and stir in the celery and carrot and continue to cook, adding stock as needed, until the grains have expanded and are tender throughout, without hard, starchy centers, about 20 minutes longer.

Stir in the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. The farrotto should look creamy, not wet or soupy. Taste for seasoning, stir in the parsley, and serve immediately.

For the Quail (serves 4-6)

12 skin-on, boneless quail breasts
2 tablespoons more-or-less sea salt, black pepper and aromatics such as rosemary and sage
2 tablespoons rendered bacon fat
2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat

Season the quail on all sides with the salt mixture then place skin-side up on a plate and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.  Remove from refrigerator and allow to stand 20 minutes at room temperature.

Heat the bacon and chicken fats over medium in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until shimmering.  Blot the quail breasts dry, then place into the skillet skin-side down without crowding. You may need to do this in batches.  Allow to cook until nicely browned, then turn and cook until almost medium doneness.

To assemble

Spoon piccolo farroto onto dinner plates and arrange quail breasts on top (2-3 per person, depending).  Spoon demi-glace over the top, garnish with a piece of rosemary and serve piping hot.

Chipotle-Roasted Chicken with Mexican Mint Marigold, Tomato Bomba

Bomba is an ancient strain of slowly-maturing rice grown in fresh mountain water around the town of Calasparra in Murcia, using aqueducts first built by the Romans.

Bomba absorbs three to four times its volume in stock (rather than the normal two), yet the grains remain firm and delicious.

Plump, locally pastured chicken (Dewberry Hills) joints are brined for half a day in cold, filtered water with coarse sea salt, cracked cumin and coriander.  Blotted dry, then roasted at 500 degrees until the skin is good and crisp, then transferred to a hot skillet and finished in sauce of reduced chicken stock, chipotles en adobo and a touch of apple cider vinegar.  Served over stock-cooked rice with browned onions, garlic and fresh tomatoes.  Garnished with freshly chopped Mexican mint marigold..

Chipotle-Roasted Chicken with Tomato Bomba

For the Brine (5%)

2 litres filtered water
100 grams coarse sea salt
1-1/2 tablesponns cumin seed, cracked
2-1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds, cracked

Bring the water to a rapid boil, then remove from heat.  Add cumin, coriander and salt and stir to combine.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.  Place chicken pieces in a glass bowl and submerge in brine.  Cover bowl and refrigerate 6-8 hours.

For the Chipotle Sauce

2 cups rich, homemade chicken stock
2 tablespoons raw cider vinegar
2-3 chipotles en adobo, minced
1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon piloncillo (substitute high-molasses raw can sugar)
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

Combine chicken stock and vinegar in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and bring to a rapid boil.  Reduce heat to medium, add chipotles, tomato paste, oregano and piloncillo and simmer until reduced and thickened, about 1 hour.  Adjust seasoning with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

For the Rice

2 tablespoons cultured butter
1/2 cup bomba
2 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2-3 green onions, slivered, divided
1 tablespoon minced elephant garlic
1 cup fresh tomato, diced

Heat the butter in a heavy skillet and add yellow onion, garlic and  1/2 of the green onions and saute until fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add bomba and stir to coat each grain with butter.  Add stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat simmer, stirring frequently until tender, about 30 minutes.

For the Chicken

Assorted chicken pieces, brined and air-dried
Smoked paprika

Arrange chicken pieces skin-side up, without crowding in a large skillet.  Lightly dust with smoked paprika and place into a pre-heated 500 degree oven, cooking until skin is nicely browned and crisp, about 25 minutes.  Chicken should be slightly underdone at this point.

Remove pan from oven and set on burner over medium heat.  Baste liberally with chipotle sauce and continue to cook, turning occasionally until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

To assemble

Spoon rice onto dinner plates and place chicken pieces over the top.  Dress with additional chipotle sauce and garnish with Mexican mint marigold.  Serve piping hot.

French Onion Soup with Parmigiano-Reggiano-Crusted Sourdough Croutons

Yellow onions and leeks are mandoline-sliced and browned in a little butter with fresh thyme, bay and cracked allspice, then simmered in equal parts homemade chicken and beef bone broth, a little raw cider vinegar, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.  Served with Parmigiano-Reggiano-crusted sourdough croutons..

French Onion Soup with Parmigiano-Reggiano-Crusted Sourdough Croutons

3 medium yellow onions, peeled and quartered
1 medium leek, trimmed and rinsed free of dirt and sand
1-1/2 tablespoons cultured/pastured butter
1 teaspoon freshly-cracked allspice
2 small bay leaves
1 small bunch fresh thyme, stripped
3 cups homemade beef stock or broth
3 cups homemade chicken stock or broth
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

2 slices sourdough boule, torn into 1-inch pieces
1-1/2 tablespoons cultured/pastured butter
2 tablespoons shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano

Combine beef and chicken broth in a heavy pot and bring to a rapid boil. Reduce heat to medium and allow to simmer until reduced in volume by about 25%.  Add vinegar, reduce heat to medium-low and keep hot.

Meanwhile, slice onions and leeks to about 1/8-inch thickness (a mandoline makes this easy) and add to a hot, dry skillet.  Stir often until onions begin to brown, then add butter, bay, allspice and thyme and continue to cook until onions are well browned, about 10-15 minutes.

Pour onion mixture into reduced stock and stir to combine.  Allow to simmer 10 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Meanwhile, saute torn sourdough in butter until golden brown on all sides.  Sprinkle croutons with Parmigiano-Reggiano and allow to melt and get a little crisp.  Remove from heat.

Ladle hot soup into bowls, dress with croutons and serve immediately.

Chicken and Farro Dumplings with Chanterelles and Melted Leeks

Similar to a Provençal harvest soup, local pastured chicken pieces are gently poached in homemade chicken stock infused with fresh thyme and marjoram and served with heirloom baby carrots, fresh chanterelles, garlic, melted leeks and shaved celeriac.  Tender farro dumplings provide a little déjà vu for those familiar with the Southern US classic..

Chicken and Farro Dumplings with Chanterelles and Melted Leeks

There is much confusion or disagreement about what exactly farro is.  Emmer, spelt, and einkorn are called farro in Italy, sometimes, but not always, distinguished as farro medio, farro grande, and farro piccolo, respectively.  Regional differences in what is grown locally and eaten as farro, as well as similarities between the three grains, may explain the confusion.  Barley and farro may be used interchangeably because of their similar characteristics.  Spelt is much more commonly grown in Germany and Switzerland and, though called dinkel there, is eaten and used in much the same way, and might therefore be considered farro.  Common wheat may also be prepared and eaten much like farro, in which form it is often referred to as wheatberries. -Wikipedia