I’m thrilled to introduce my guest blogger today: the talented writer and artist–and just one of the nicest people I know–Nava Atlas. Nava’s cookbooks, from the classic Vegetariana to the more recent Vegan Express and Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons, are known for fresh, inventive recipes that are as easy as they are tasty. I’m happy to be taking the photos for her upcoming holiday cookbook, Vegan Holiday Kitchen, partly because I get a chance to sample so many of her recipes before they hit the press. Here’s a sneak preview of one of the recipes that my family particularly loved.
Hello, fellow Susan V. fans! I’m really pleased to be contributing a guest post to this blog, especially as it comes in the throes of a collaboration on my forthcoming book, The Vegan Holiday Kitchen, which will be published in October, 2011. Susan is providing fifty (yes, you read that right) photos for the book, and I’m sure that it won’t come as any surprise to her readers that the ones she submitted so far are absolutely stunning. Whenever I send the latest over to my editor, she says that her lunch looks so pathetic in comparison that she is tempted to toss it.
Writing a cookbook often means working on recipes that are out of sync with the seasons, which is not ideal. Fortunately, I’m developing some new summer recipes in real time. It makes me all the more cognizant of keeping cooking to a minimum, and to avoid baking altogether if possible. I think this makes Susan’s job more tolerable as well, since I’m not sending over recipes for her to shoot that require baking a pumpkin for hours or making a long-simmering stew when it’s a hundred degrees out.
For the chapter titled Independence Day and Beyond: Summer Entertaining, I’m working on a wide variety of grilled dishes, cold platters, and fruity desserts. Among these are a handful of unusual twists on pasta salad. No throwbacks to the boring, vinegary concoctions of the disco era or the “me decade” that followed, these take their inspiration from ethnic cuisines.
Israeli couscous is one fun little pasta. It’s round and quick-cooking, and has a very pleasant mouth feel (look for it in bulk at your health food store if you’ve never tried it). Combined with herbs, raw veggies, and lush stone fruit, it makes for a light and refreshing foil to grilled foods or well-seasoned plant-based protein dishes. It also makes for a lovely dish to share when you’re invited to a summer potluck.
This recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of olive oil, but feel free to cut back, in keeping with the low-fat theme of this blog. In fact, Susan mentioned that for photographing purposes, she likes to keep oil to a minimum. She used only one tablespoon in the dish before shooting it and thought it was fine without adding the rest.
I hope you enjoy this preview of The Vegan Holiday Kitchen. If you’d like updates on our progress, I invite you to sign up for my newsletter on my site, VegKitchen, which is currently undergoing a huge overhaul and expansion and being completely veganized. I also invite you to join me on my Facebook page.
Israeli Couscous Summer Pilaf
Make sure to use a firm, flavorful cucumber with a minimum of seeds. Hothouse cucumber is a good choice for this if you can’t get a small, firm variety straight from the garden or farm market.
- 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
- 1 heaping cup cucumber, quartered and thinly sliced
- 1 large stalk celery, strings removed and diced
- 2 scallions, minced
- 1/4 cup minced fresh dill, or more, to taste
- 10 to 12 basil leaves, thinly sliced, or more, to taste
- 4 medium firm, ripe apricots or 3 medium firm, ripe nectarines, pitted and diced
- 1 heaping cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes (red or yellow, or a combination)
- 1 medium firm, ripe avocado, peeled and diced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or less if you’d like a lower fat dish)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice, or more, to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Mixed baby greens, as needed
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts or 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
- Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the Israeli couscous and cook at a rapid simmer for about 8 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water until the couscous is at room temperature.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the couscous with the remaining ingredients except the last two. Toss well to combine.
- Line a large serving platter with some greens. Mound the salad over them, letting some of the greens show along the edge. Sprinkle the top with the toasted nuts. Serve at once or cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s)
Cooking time: 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 8
Nutrition (per 1/8 of recipe): 249 calories, 104 calories from fat, 12.1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 9.4mg sodium, 337.2mg potassium, 32.6g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 4.8g sugar, 5.4g protein, 5.4 points. (Without olive oil, 1/8 of recipe contains 204 calories and 7g total fat.)