Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ethnic ingredients, home cookin'

Dinner tonight was a delight of colors and odd ingredients. It worked, and it was great, but didn't exactly have much of a unifying theme. Or, did it?

We made flank steak, marinated in harissa. (I was inspired by the Next Food Network Star who didn't win, and we found it in a little Asian grocery in Pittsburgh's strip district.) Harissa is a paste used in north African and related areas, such as Morocco and Algeria. We got a little can of it, which was covered in beautiful Arabic script but stated it was a product of France. The ingredients can vary, but ours listed, "beets, carrot, water, chilli, vegetable oil, sweetcorn starch, coriander, caraway, citric acid and garlic." Mmmmh. Just the smell was wonderful. I wish I had had the time to let the steak marinate all day, as I felt cheated that the flavor only stayed on the surface.

Our starch was Israeli cous cous, which is much larger than the cous cous one normally encounters. I got it as a recommended substitute for fregula, a Sardinian pasta. Regular cous cous is as fine as sand; Israeli cous cous is more like the little round pastas you find in soup sometimes. About the size of a lentil half. The flavor of Israeli cous cous is a bit toasty or slightly nutty, as it is generally toasted and regular cous cous is not. I made the cous cous just in water, not thinking to flavor it right away, but was pleased by the depth of flavor it had anyway. All this from flour and water! I added diced, dried apricot and sliced almonds.

As a side or accompaniment, we made an heirloom tomato caprese salad. Our tiny currant tomatoes are amazingly tight and sweet, popping in the mouth with wonderful snap. The yellow pears are mild and flavorful and the black cherry tomato had a deep flavor. Heirloom tomatoes. All the rage for a reason. We tossed these with basil, white balsamic, salt, pepper, olive oil and little marble sized mozzarella.

So, what was our meal direction? Yummy! Multi-ethnic and not too worried about it.

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