Friday, June 5, 2015

A Small Birthday Celebration: Israeli Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins



For those of you with children out there, this one is for you.  You will know exactly what I mean when I say that my kids are big now but they will always be my babies. I now find myself in a role very new to me, being a yes girl. Yes, it has taken me a couple of years to realize that they no longer need my opinion, they just want my support and acceptance.

Before we arrived at this crossroad I gave them LOTS of advice. Most importantly in my opinion, to find someone who loves and has a good relationship with their parent of the opposite sex. For these are the people who will teach them how to love and respect themselves and those they choose to share their life with. There was also that bit about being smart with your money because money is freedom, and some other stuff about not desecrating your body with tattoos, but we'll save that for another day. Anyway, they listened to a couple of things I had to say, and hopefully filed the rest away for later.

One of the things my daughter has done right by my teaching was picking a sweet guy to spend her time with. He has a college degree, a good job, makes her laugh and, wait for it . . . loves and respects his mom and grandmother so much that it is more than even I could ask for.

I like him so much that I swallowed my pride and opened the doors of our new, old house to his family to host a birthday party for him. In addition to trying to put a spit shine on the unfinished rooms of my house, I drove myself crazy trying to come up with a fantastic dinner menu special enough for the birthday boy and his wonderful family that I adore too.

I considered too many menus to even count. I went from chicken tikka to meatballs in goulash sauce to plain old hamburgers. You know how it is, I wanted the menu to be easy to prepare, a bit homey (to give the appearance of it being effortless), delicious (of course) and something trendy (but not too trendy) with maybe just a touch of old school to look clever. because this is what I think people expect from a food blogger.

So in the end I landed up deciding on an old school shish kabob with a Greek salad, au gratin potatoes (for the less adventurous in the group) and my take on a dish that I recently discovered at a cooking class (this is where the clever bit comes in), Israeli couscous with toasted pine nuts and golden raisins. This dish even won over this raisin hater with it's plump little bursts of sweet amidst the salty pearls of tiny pasta and the nutty crunch of toasted pine nuts. Top this all off with a white teddy bear birthday cake made from an old Wilton pan that I used on my children's first birthdays (my daughter's request) and you have a successful birthday dinner.

This dish is really super easy to make and it is a true crowd pleaser. It is at its best when served warm but it is pretty good at room temperature or chilled. Since it doesn't have ingredients like eggs or mayo, it can also sit on the buffet table a little bit longer than lots of dishes making it a great for a potluck.



Israeli Couscous with Toasted Pine Nuts and Golden Raisins


Feel free to make this your own. It is great with dried cranberries, chopped dried apricots, toasted slivered almonds or any other ingredients you prefer.

2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons light olive oil
2 cups Israeli or pearled couscous (the big stuff)
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

Bring chicken broth and oil to a boil in a large saucepan set over medium high heat. Stir in couscous and bring it back to a boil. Give everything a good stir before removing it from the heat and covering with a tight fitting lid; set aside for about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and add the pine nuts, raisins and chopped parsley; stir well. Replace the lid and it let sit another couple of minutes before serving.

Serves 6 - 8.




To toast pine nuts, place them in a small frying pan that has been preheated over medium heat. Stir often until they start to turn golden brown. This same method is good for any type of nut. It is just that easy.



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