Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Post-Wedding Feast for Becca & Caleb

My good friends Becca & Caleb got married last Saturday and to help them celebrate, Dad and I cooked the "post-wedding-gift-opening" lunch for them (and their families). Since Dad offered to cook, they let him choose the menu . . . after a few consultations with me and with his stash of Bon Appetit magazines, we ended up deciding on a couple of recipes he found in the August issue [of Bon Appetit] and a couple of my favorite summer dishes.

Although everything turned out to be absolutely WONDERFUL, there were a few times I began to wonder if people were going to have to stop at McDonald's on the way home . . . especially when I realized the couscous recipe called for raisins.

Grilled Lemon Chicken and Moroccan Couscous Salad
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tbsp. ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tsp. salt, divided
1 tsp. ground tumeric
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 10-oz. box plain couscous
1/2 cup raisins
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (1.5 cups)
1-2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (2 cups)
1/2 cup baby carrots
1 cup thinly sliced green beans (or trimmed sugar snap peas)
2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 1/2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
6 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
3/4 cup plus 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds (optional)
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

Couscous instructions:
Bring chicken broth, 1 tablespoon oil, ginger, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin to boil in heavy large saucepan. Stir in couscous and remove from heat. Scatter raisins over, cover, and let stand until couscous softens, about 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork, breaking up any lumps. Transfer couscous to large bowl. Add cucumber, red bell pepper, carrot, green beans, and lemon peel. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and lemon juice in small bowl. Add to couscous; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Chicken instructions:
Place 2 1/2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken and seal bag, releasing any excess air; turn several times to coat. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes (or chill 1 to 3 hours and bring to room temperature before continuing).

Prepare barbecue grill (high heat). Brush grill rack with oil. Transfer chicken from bag to barbecue with some marinade still clinging and grill until slightly charred and just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to platter and let rest 10 minutes. Stir 3/4 cup chopped cilantro into couscous. Sprinkle almonds over, if desired. Drizzle chicken with oil, sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup chopped cilantro over, and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with couscous.
- Adapted from Bon Appetit (we tripled this recipe)

Note: I did not get a picture of the finished version of this recipe (although the couscous portion is the yellow stuff you can barely see in the metal bowl above). Between the bright yellow couscous, the colorful vegetables, and the lemon slices and cilantro, it should be an appealing dish to look at when it's all put together. About the raisins . . . they were actually not bad and gave the dish a nice bit of sweetness. However, if you hate raisins, it wouldn't have much of a negative impact on the final dish to omit them.

Grilled Eggplant with Caponata Salsa
1 12-ounce container grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1/2 cup chopped Vidalia onion
5 large green olives, pitted, thinly sliced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh oregano plus sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon drained capers, rinsed
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing
1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds), trimmed

Mix tomatoes, celery, onion, olives, chopped oregano, capers, garlic, and crushed red pepper in medium bowl. Whisk red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil in small bowl; pour over tomato mixture and toss to coat. Season caponata to taste with salt and pepper. Caponata can be prepared 2 hours ahead (let stand at room temperature).

Prepare barbecue grill(medium-high heat). Peel eggplant lengthwise to create alternating 2-inch-wide intervals of peeled and unpeeled skin. Cut eggplant crosswise into 6 slices, each about 1 inch thick. Brush eggplant slices with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill eggplant slices until slightly charred and very tender when pierced with knife, about 8 minutes per side.

Place 1 grilled eggplant slice on each of 6 plates. Spoon caponata over, garnish with oregano sprigs, and serve warm or at room temperature.
- Bon Appetit

Again, no picture of the final version (the chicken and eggplant were still grilling when I took the pictures). The "salsa" topping is in the glass bowl at the top right of the photo. Don't skip the step of seasoning with salt and pepper! Even the people who didn't think they liked eggplant enjoyed this dish!

2 oranges , sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rings
2 lemons , sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rings
3 peaches , pitted and cut into 8 wedges
1 pint strawberries , hulled and halved (optional)
3 bottles white wine (dry to semidry), such as Pinot Grigio
1 liter sparkling water

Place all fruit in a large pitcher or bowl, add wine and allow to sit at room temperature 4 to 24 hours. When ready to serve, add sparkling water and ice. Serve in a bowl with a ladle (make sure there's fruit in every serving)
- O, The Oprah Magazine

If you end up with leftover peaches in the pitcher - they are very delicious after "marinating" in the sangria (and twice as delicious with homemade ice cream)!

We rounded out the menu with:
Caprese Salad (using big tomatoes instead of grape tomatoes like I usually do)
Watermelon & Feta Salad (with cantaloupe)
Baguettes with Fresh Herb Butter (Basil/Dill/Chive)
Fresh Fruit
Strawberry Panzanella
Wedding Cake (leftover!)
Homemade Ice Cream (thank you to someone in Caleb's family!)

Although cooking in someone else's kitchen can be challenging, we really had fun making all these dishes . . . and using Becca's new Pampered Chef stuff! I wish someone would show up at my house and cook a meal like this! =)

No comments: