It’s happened, Finally. Winter is here and (sadly) as sub-zero winds were swirling around us this week we realized something—the January blahs were upon us. Spicy Polish Kimchee sauce and producing our winter line this week got us thinking about diving into the kitchen to drive the blahs back, so we can focus on fun (like the release of our winter line, the Vegan Valentine’s day shop-up, and our recipe contest) instead of slinking into our apartments and huddling to hide from the elements.
And alas, we’ve found a cure—The New Brooklyn Cookbook. Thanks to Melissa and Brendan Vaughn, authors of The New Brooklyn Cookbook for bringing BK restaurants to our kitchens! This (fantastic) book highlights 31 restaurants that have “put Brooklyn on the culinary map.”
Thrilled to be able to take Franny’s, Al di Là, and others home with us, we got to cooking this week with a Moroccan feast, centering on BKLYN Larder’s recipe for M’hamsa Couscous with Spicy Raisins and Almonds. We decided to serve the couscous alongside a chicken tagine, so omnivores and herbivores alike would be satisfied and thoroughly de-Blahed.
After several crazy days of sauce-promoting (which got us featured in Daily Candy and Serious Eats!) and recipe-tinkering, we raced home laden with groceries and got to work…thoroughly excited and ready for a fun, homecooked meal with friends—which is what we’re all about, after all.
The resultst? B-E-A-UTIFUL, and absolutely scrumptious. This was definitely not you’re run-of-the-mill 5-minutes and done couscous. It was hearty, with the almonds and raisins adding great texture, and the parsley dropped in a fresh dash of color. The raisins were our favorite part—they were succulent and added a complex dimension to the dish, without being too spicy; though you could always add more red pepper flakes to the mixture if you’re a spicy food addict.
In our experience, the crumbly goodness was ideal for sopping up extra sauce from our tagine (which was almost as easy to make, especially since we used our Spiced Tomato Jam as a base), though the couscous could certainly stand alone for an easy lunch.
Post-party, we chatted up Chris Behr, a chef from BKLYN Larder who let us in on their mission, and some tips.
We swear by our recipes, so we were surprised by Chris’ssuggestion for home chefs trying to creating impressive (and tasty) recipes at home:
“A lot of times, people come in here with a piece of paper and say ‘I need THIS cheese!’, and are really afraid to vary, even if you can offer them something that’s essentially the same,” he said. “As someone who writes recipes, I think its really important to be flexible—the author would rather have you love the recipe with turnips instead of radishes then get stressed over a beautiful meal, it’s aboutwhat You like after all.”
Duly noted. (We took his advice when modifying this SmittenKitchen recipe for couscous and feta stuffed peppers using our leftover couscous. YUM.)
As it turns out, we share a lot with BKLYN Larder when it comes to our food mission. Before we even mentioned our own commitment to local sourcing he chimed in, “When people come here, and eat the food or are looking to take things home I want them to see the respect we have for local farmers and great food and think ‘Wow, this is a beautiful thing.’”
Now that’s something we can agree with!
“We really think all the extra effort and a slightly higher price is worth it for the peace of mind we get knowing we’re giving people the best that’s out there,” he continued. “A lot more goes into what’s on the menu or shelf than picking up the phone and ordering some swiss chard.”
(Was this guy stalking us on FB or something?)
Before we forget, here’s that great couscous recipe—for more goodness pick up The New Brooklyn Cookbook, and check out Brooklyn Larder’s website, which is soon to have a blog/recipe section! (Need something to drink with that? Click Here.)
M’hamsa Couscous with Almonds and Spicy Raisins
For the Spicy Raisins:
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
For the Couscous:
2/3 cup whole raw almonds
2 cups M’hamsa hand-rolled couscous, availabe at BKLYN Larder and Marlow & Daughters or online at www.zingermans.com
1 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsely.
To make the spicy raisins, place the raisins and red pepper flakes in a small glass or stainless-steel bowl. Bring 1/2 cup water and the vinegar to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the water and vinegar over the raisins; the liquid should cover the raisins by 1/2 inch. Allow the raisins to cool to room temperature. Drain, reserving the liquid, and set aside.
To make the couscous, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Toast for 15 minutes, or until browned and fragrant. When the almonds are cool, chop them coarsely and set aside.
Meanwhile, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Stir in the couscous and salt and return to a full boil. Remove the couscous from the heat, add the olive oil, and cover. Allow to stand for 10 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Fluff the couscous with a fork, then spread it in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet to cool to room temperature.
When the couscous is cool, stir in the spicy raisins and 2 to 3 tablespoons of their liquid, the almonds , and the parsley. Taste and adjust the seasonings with a splash more olive oil, salt, and red pepper flakes to taste.