Tag Archives: dried cherries

My Favorite New Salad: CousCous

Couscous - Banner Shot - Inside NanaBread's Head

I am addicted to couscous. I blame my little sister (aka #4). She’s the one who first introduced me to it, and since then I have come to love it beyond words. It’s hard to even pinpoint what I love most. Maybe it’s the couscous grain itself – so buttery and delicious. Or perhaps it’s the combination of fresh & dried fruits; it does pair my favorite tart dried cherries, cranberries and apricots with the sweetness of fresh melons. Or maybe it’s the nuts? That’s a strong possibility, since toasty roasted pistachios, walnuts & pecans are showcased.

Couscous - Ingredients - Inside NanaBread's Head

Who am I kidding? It’s all of it, tossed together to create a sweet & savory, soft & crunchy perfection you just can’t find in other salads. And the best part is that you can customize it to include any of your personal favorites. My little sister loves to add pomegranate seeds. I adore it with the fresh melon and dried papaya. Any way you choose to make it, be forewarned – once you try it, you may never stop obsessing over it. Trust me.

NanaBread’s Easy CousCous:
1 cup water
1 pinch of table salt
1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup uncooked couscous
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried papaya, diced
1/2 cup dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup dried, pitted tart cherries
1/2 cup fresh honeydew melon, diced
1/2 cup fresh cantaloupe, diced
1/2 cup roasted & salted pistachios
1/2 cup toasted pecans
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
zest & juice of one orange

In a saucepan, combine the water, salt, agave, cinnamon and butter; stir over medium-high heat until the water mixture comes to a boil. Quickly add the couscous and stir constantly for one minute, to prevent the couscous from sticking. Cover tightly with a lid, turn off the heat, and let it sit for 5 minutes.

While the couscous is resting, chop your fruits and nuts into roughly the same size pieces and place them in a large mixing bowl; toss with the juice and zest of one orange. Once the couscous is ready, fluff it with a fork and pour it over the fruits and nuts; toss to thoroughly combine.

Couscous - Close-Up - Inside NanaBread's Head

Let the mixture sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving. Leftover couscous should be refrigerated in an airtight container and should keep for at least 4-5 days. I don’t think mine will last that long. Not even close. Nope. Not at all. Not sharing, either. Nuh-uh. {going back for more}

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Dark Chocolate Cherry Pecan Cookies

Dark Chocolate, Dried Cherries & Toasted Pecans – all in one cookie!

Years ago, during a visit to Seattle, I fell in love with Chukar Cherries. More specifically, I fell in love with their dried cherries. So much so, I may have been gently escorted away from the free sample basket at the Pike Place Market.

Since then, I have tried to incorporate more dried cherries into my life, especially (it seems) when paired with dark chocolate. I made these cherry chocolate chip scones back in 2010. They were really tasty.

But the tide took a turn last year when my friend Kirsten sent me a box of Michigan cherries. Dried cherries. That’s when I took a step back and said, “Hold on. Michigan grows cherries, too?” That’s when Kirsten confirmed that yes, Michigan does indeed grow cherries. Really spectacular, gorgeous tart red cherries. And I fell in love all over again.

My first box of Michigan cherries – from The Cherry Republic

Last month, as part of our One Kitchen Many Hearts box exchange, Kirsten struck again by including another bag of dried cherries from Shoreline Fruits. They’re from her neck of the woods. Have mercy! They are world class – with a perfect balance of tart and sweet, dried yet plump. Now I’m not trying to start a war between the states, but I think Michigan cherries may just edge out Washington state cherries. Granted, it has been a few years since I’ve had a Washington dried cherry, and if the fine folks at Chukar want to send me a box just to settle this once and for all, I’m open to a side-by-side tasting. Until then, here’s my latest ode to the dried cherry. Paired with chocolate; as it should be.

NanaBread’s Dark Chocolate Cherry Pecan Cookies:
(makes approximately 36 cookies)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup good quality cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup extra-dark chocolate chips (I prefer Guittard)
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 cup dried cherries, chopped

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Using a mixer, beat the butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts until fluffy. Gradually add the flour mixture, beating until well combined. Reducing the mixer to low speed, blend in the chocolate chips, toasted pecans and dried cherries. If you’re using a hand mixer, you may want to stir them in by hand, as the dough will be thick.

Oh, that dough… this would be great as brownies, too.

I like to bake cookies on those silicone baking mats, but if you don’t have them, line your baking sheet with parchment paper. I also like to use a medium-size ice cream scoop to shape my cookies. I absolutely love how perfectly uniform they turn out with a scoop. Don’t worry; you can also use a spoon. Drop golfball-size dough balls onto prepared sheets, approximately 3″ apart.

The key to perfectly uniform cookies – an ice cream scoop.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, depending how ‘done’ you like them. For soft chewy cookies, bake closer to 10 minutes. For cookies that are soft in the center and crispy around the edges, bake closer to the 12 minute mark. Remove from the oven, allow to cool on the pan for 10-15 minutes, then remove to parchment or waxed paper to finish cooling.

From there, you’re just a cold glass of milk away from a perfect cherry-laden fudge bliss cookie coma.

Do you have a favorite dried fruit you cook with? Coconut, blueberries, pineapple, figs, prunes or something tropical? I’d love to hear what inspires you. Feel free to include links to recipes in your comments. I’m always looking for something new to try or Pin. Please do share!

Recipe adapted from: http://zestycook.com/a-taste-of-heaven-double-dark-chocolate-cookies/

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