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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Blood Orange Mojitos, Wine Poached Pear Salad, Chicken Spiedini and Lemon Couscous

Saturday late afternoon was for shopping.  The fan on the porch broke last year while being cleaned.  Without one of its blades it made a horrid kerchunk, kerchunk sound whenever it was turned on.  The light fixture in the pantry was down to one bulb out of three.  The other two had broken off and we couldn't get our fingers in to clear the debris.  The table between our rocking chairs on the porch lost a leg last winter.  It's almost spring and we're very anxious to be able to use the porch again. In fact, as I type this I've actually got the sliding door to the porch open for the first time since last year.  YAY!   Can't get too excited though as snow is in the forecast for tonight... 

Our first stop was Tuesday Morning.  In theory we went there to look for the replacement table.  In reality, they typically have some bargain cookbooks.  Connie knew the real reason we were going there and was happy to go along with my addiction.  Hey, at least it's cookbooks and not something like shoes!  Three cookbooks later, we were on our way.  As usual I started reading one of the cookbooks as we drove around.  First up was Adventures in Grilling by Willie Cooper.

By the time we got to our last stop I'd identified three recipes to try that evening.  They were all built around a couscous recipe from Michael Symon's 5 in 5 cookbook that I totally adore.  He'd suggested chicken with the couscous so that's the recipe I was looking for.  I really wanted to fix a great dinner because it'd been a couple of weeks since we'd actually been home for a dinner and not had leftovers or been out somewhere or another for dinner. 

What did we think?  Amazing dinner.  We started with blood orange mojitos.  The recipe didn't call for stirring them up.  After Connie gave me my glass and I tasted it, I grabbed an ice cream sundae spoon and gave it a good stir.  Fabulous.  Then, we had poached pear salad.  YUM!  We rarely give fives.  Both of those were.  I'd taken a chicken spiedini recipe and treated it as a marinade.  And, I'd made the couscous.  Both were very good.  But, they were only fours.  Which is still pretty darned good in our book!

Blood Orange Mojito


Serves four

20 mint leaves plus four mint sprigs
4 fl oz simple syrup (we use 2:1 sugar to water)
3 fl oz white rum
4 fl oz fresh lime juice
750 ml club soda
2 blood oranges


Muddle the mint leaves and simply syrup in a cocktail shaker.  Be gentle and don't tear the mint leaves.  Fill highball glasses with ice.  Pour in the mint-infused simple syrup then add the rum and the lime juice.  Squeeze half a blood orange into each glass.  Stir gently and top with a mint sprig.

adapted from Grilling Adventures

Poached Pear Salad

serves 2


for the poaching liquid:

1 c white wine (I used chardonnay)
1/3 c granulated sugar
1 t lavender
1 T honey
1/2 vanilla bean, halved and vanilla scraped into the mix

for the salad dressing:

1/2 light olive oil
1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
2 T champagne vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper

for the salads:

1 Bartlett or D'Anjou pear, peeled, halved and cored
arugula or watercress or spinach
blue cheese
toasted walnuts or pecans, toasted


Combine the poaching ingredients in a medium saucepan. 

 the photo above is me scraping a vanilla bean. the background is bacon for a grilled cheese later in the week...

Cook over medium heat for ten minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.  Add the pears and poach for about 15 minutes until the pears are softened but not mushy. 

While the pears are poaching, mix everything for the dressing but the oils in a small bowl.  Whisk constantly while pouring in the oil.  When the dressing is emulsified, it's ready.  Cool the pears in the poaching liquid.  To prepare the salad, brush the pears with oil and grind black pepper over them.  (I skipped this and the grilling.)  Grill them for about two minutes on medium direct heat.  Serve sliced on a bed of greens, drizzled with dressing and topped with crumbled blue cheese and toasted nuts.

adapted from Adventures in Grilling

Chicken Spiedini


1/4 c olive oil
1 T each fresh rosemary, oregano and marjoram, roughly chopped
1/4 c dry white wine
4 chicken thighs

Stir together the olive oil and herbs. 

Make the marinade with half of the olive oil mixture and all of the white wine.  Marinate the chicken for 15-20 minutes at room temperature. 

Grill, turning once and basting with the balance of the olive oil mixture.  Remove from the grill when the internal temperature has reached 160.  Allow the chicken to rest for 10 minutes prior to serving.  Tent the meat with foil to keep it warm.

adapted from Adventures in Grilling

Lemon Couscous


1 c couscous
grated zest and juice of one lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 c halved cherry tomatoes
1 c boiling water
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
1/2 c fresh mint leaves
3 T extra virgin olive oil


Mix the first five ingredients.  Cover and let sit for five minutes. 

Add the other ingredients.  Fluff with a fork and serve

adapted from 5 in 5 by Michael Symon