Couscous Salad, Focaccia & Clafouti
I told one of my friends my theme for this blog (and also what she was eating) – couscous salad, focaccia and clafoutis. She insisted I must be making all three of those words up and was pulling her leg. Now Miss M is an older woman and probably a meat and potatoes kind of gal. So I tend to stretch her boundaries a bit when it comes to food. But I didn’t make up those words!
These recipes are great ways to use up that abundance of farmers market produce that might be languishing in your fridge. Let’s start with the couscous salad.
Cold couscous salad for the win
I was taught how to make this salad in France. It was a favorite for Sunday picnics because it’s easily transported and has no mayonnaise to spoil.
There are two types of couscous, Israeli or pearl couscous (large, round shapes) and regular couscous (small, irregular round shapes). Both are actually a pasta made from semolina and water. The Israeli couscous takes 8-10 minutes to cook and the regular couscous takes about 5 minutes.
For this salad add the small couscous to boiling water or stock, cover it and let sit for 5 minutes. I use tomato juice as the cooking liquid to give the pasta a great flavor and color. I tried spicy tomato juice last week and it was yummy! Spread it on a cookie sheet to let it cool while you assemble the veggies.
My salad always includes cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and a garden herb like chives, parsley or basil. Mix with the cooled couscous, pour a little Italian dressing on it and maybe a splash of balsamic vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste, then chill.
Last week I had one lonely ear of corn in the fridge, so I scraped off the kernels and added them to the salad. I also found a red pepper, so I chopped it up and threw it in. This salad is so versatile and refreshing in the summer!
Best bread to bake in the summer – Focaccia
I know it’s crazy to turn on the oven in the summer but this focaccia is worth a little heat. Focaccia is an Italian flatbread that is crispy outside and chewy on the inside. It’s baked on a flat cookie sheet or jellyroll pan with lots of olive oil and can be topped with anything.
The key to focaccia is to not get carried away with the toppings – then it becomes a pizza! This is really about the beauty of the bread with some fresh goodies on top. I topped mine with my summer faves – cherry tomatoes, red onions and fresh basil. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and some Parmesan cheese, drizzle with some more olive oil and be prepared to swoon.
Focaccia is like a delicious blank canvas so even just a sprinkle of salt and some rosemary is swoon worthy! I tried several recipes and this one from the Food Network was my favorite.
Custardy goodness with fruit
Since I had already turned on the oven, I decided to make dessert. I went back to my French taste buds and made a cherry clafouti. I use this simple recipe that looks like a Dutch baby when it comes out of the oven. It’s brown around the edges and soft and custardy in the center.
Whir up the batter in a blender, pour it into a baking dish, then top with fruit. Traditionally it is made with cherries that have not been pitted. The cherry pits are supposed to impart an almond flavor, but I don’t like messing with the pits as I eat. To avoid this hassle a lot of recipes call for a little almond extract to impart that same flavor without the pits.
You can bake clafouti in an iron skillet, pie pan or baking dish. Other stone fruits are also good in clafoutis like peaches, apricots or plums. Clafouti does not work when you use fruits with too much water content like strawberries or raspberries.
I made two clafoutis. One “aux cerises” (cherry) and then I tried peach because I bought so many peaches at the farmers market. Both were so good!
Enjoy the abundance of summer fruits and vegetables!