11 August 2009
Cross-Cultural Casserole – Paper Chef 43
It’s time for my favorite food blog event – Paper Chef! (okay, it’s pretty much the only food blog event I’ve participated in more than once, but that’s because it’s my favorite!)
Basic idea: the host selects 3 events at random from a list, then adds a fourth to heighten the challenge. Participants have a weekend to make one or more dishes that incorporate the ingredients. This month’s host is Javaholic and she challenged us with couscous (preferably toasted Israeli couscous), chiles, peaches, and rosemary. I wasn’t phased by the peaches and chiles because there’s a peach salsa that I find really tasty, but peaches and rosemary? or even chiles and rosemary? Huh. Not sure I’ve mixed those before.
I have rosemary growing in a pot on my porch, and I keep stocked up on peaches this time of year. Chiles are not yet abundant at our Farmer’s Market (the summer has been cool), but I did manage to find a few that were allegedly anaheims, but pretty darn skinny if you ask me. And I stocked up on Israeli couscous at our local co-op on my way to the Farmer’s Market.
Then I mulled around ideas. The obvious idea was a summer salad incorporating the four ingredients. I briefly considered making a dessert, kind of like mango sticky rice, only peach sticky couscous [uh, with chile strips as a topping! ?? !!]. What I really yearned to make was chiles stuffed with couscous, similar to the stuffed bell peppers my mom used to make, but alas, the chiles at the market were too skinny for that to be feasible.
So I made a casserole. Any self-respecting cook who grew up in New Mexico and/or El Paso knows a dish that includes some combination of squash, tomatoes, chiles, onions, maybe corn (usually topped with corn chips and melted cheese). This is similar, with the peaches standing in for the tomatoes. I’m calling it “cross cultural” because the peaches (in my mind) add a sort of midwestern fusion, and the Israeli couscous [or any other couscous, for that matter] certainly never appears in my Savoring the Southwest cookbook!
6 to 8 chiles
1ish medium (yellow) summer squash, sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 peach, sliced
few tablespoons parmesan [note: I probably would change this]
1 garlic clove
rosemary, minced – 1 Tablespoon
tarragon, minced – 1/2 Tab? I didn’t really measure
1 cup Israeli couscous
1.25 cup water
2 (more) medium peaches, sliced (~1 cup), optionally tossed with 2 tsp brown sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon
green chile salt
Chile prep: roast your chiles (over a gas grill, or under a broiler). Let them sweat and cool in a paper bag, then remove the skin and seeds. Cut into slices.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Use an 8×8 baking dish. Film with olive oil.
Cover the bottom with a layer of squash. (I needed slightly more than 1 squash worth of slices.)
Layer on the onions.
Layer on the green chile strips until you are out (I used all my chiles, and had 3 layers).
Top with chunks from the first peach.
Mix 1 egg with milk in a small bowl or cup. (I poured the milk into the biggest half of the egg shell, twice – so about an egg’s worth of milk!) Beat lightly. Add parmesan. Pour over the top of the veggie layers.
Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes.
chop garlic clove, rosemary, and tarragon.
Using small sauce pan, saute garlic, rosemary, and tarragon in olive oil until fragrant.
Pour water – bring to boil – add couscous. Cover pan, lower heat to simmer, and cook for 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the peaches + cinnamon sugar and cook for 2 minutes more.
It’s okay if it’s still a bit soupy. When the couscous is al dente, pour the mixture over the casserole and let it cook in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes more (while you pull everything else together).
The result? Pretty tasty, although not particularly photogenic.
Jonski Papa was initially hesitant about the couscous (see our recent run in with pearl tapioca) and couldn’t figure out where the sweetness came from at first (the peaches), but he really liked it. He thought it needed a crunch element, so got some pita chips from the pantry (must be that corn chip crust he’s missing!). I felt like the rosemary was overwhelmed – I couldn’t really taste it at all. Use more? Add it at the end? Not sure the best way to address that.
What I would change: I’m still trying to decide if it needs a cheese element. Maybe some Mexican cheese in the casserole? Or a goat cheese added at the end? Oh shoot, there’s an idea: goat cheese with rosemary ‘crust’, that probably would have provided more of a rosemary oomph! I could have gotten some at the market.