Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Couscous with Roasted Fennel & Toasted Almonds

I was recently offered a review copy of the newly released cookbook from the website Food52.  To say I was excited about this would be an understatement.  I've been a follower of the website for years and every single thing I've ever made from it has been amazing.  I had a feeling their cookbook would be no different.
If you're unfamiliar with the site - in a nutshell it showcases recipes from home cooks, every day people like you and me who happen to have a few great recipes or specialties up their sleeves.  It's a recipe sharing community, but it's also more than that.  The 52 in the site's name comes from the 52 weeks in a year, and each week the editors of the site hold a contest for the best recipe in one of many categories....the Best Holiday Breakfast, the Best Raspberry Recipe, the Best Paella are just a few examples.  The contest entries are vetted by not only the sites creators but also by the community itself.  The winning recipe for each contest gets a prize - but even better gets their recipe published in The Food52 Cookbook!
The cookbook I'm speaking of today is the first one - a year's worth of contest winning recipes {the second book is in the works now}.  Knowing that each winning recipe has been tested and voted upon by a community of food loving people makes me feel confident that I will most likely enjoy them as well...which is why more often than not I use the site as a regular "what should I cook for dinner tonight?" resource.  Personally, I've never entered any of the contests {but - one of my recipes did win a Wild Card slot for the 2nd cookbook!}.  Not because I don't want to, but because the way my life is I'm lucky if I know what day of the week it is, let alone keep track of recipe contests.  I do, however, appreciate everyone who does because I love reaping the benefits.
I do use the recipe sharing part of the site though - if I ever come up with an original recipe that I want to share I upload it there.  It's a great spot to store your personal recipe box.
It was tough trying to decide which recipe I would feature here for this review.  So many of them called out to be made and I know for sure that this cookbook will not sit on a shelf collecting dust - it will get used many times and I hope to one day try all the recipes.
In the end, I decided on this Couscous with Roasted Fennel & Toasted Almonds.  I found it in the Winter section of the book {I love that it's divided by seasons!} and it just felt so perfect for this time of year.  Even the colors in this dish feel like winter to me.
For the exact recipe, I will be sending you to the Food52 website - as I wish to support their cause by having you get it directly from the source.  But - I will share some slight changes I made and specific ingredients I used with you here.
First - the recipe calls for using black raisins which are then soaked in orange juice.  Which for folks who like raisins is probably a great way to plump them up while adding some orange flavor to the final dish - but, I am not a raisin person.  I don't mind them so much on their own, but once they get added to food forget about it.

So, instead I used dried cranberries - and instead of soaking them in orange juice I added a bit of orange juice to the dressing, to keep some of the orange flavor in the finished dish.  I cut back on the vinegar to make up for the added citrus juice {2 tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tbsp. sherry vinegar & 1/2 tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice}.  It ended up being perfect for my tastes because I love vinaigrette's made with a combination of juice and vinegar.
I also left out the garnish of fennel fronds as the fennel I used was trimmed previously.  As far as adaptions that's pretty much it - everything else I followed to a tee.
As for ingredients, I used a hand-rolled Tunisian couscous, called M'hamsa.  Since it's an imported specialty item it's pricey {for something that's primarily semolina flour and water}.  But - I bought it months ago on a whim, intrigued by the idea of trying a handmade couscous and ever since I've been hooked.  The grain is not as large as an Israeli {pearl} couscous, but it's larger than commercially made varieties.  As far as flavor, it's much more intense than factory made couscous - the nutty flavor is much more pronounced.  I also love that the larger grains don't stick together in a big glutenous mess like the small ones sometimes do.  This salad is a perfect winter side dish and the leftovers taste great the next day.
I know you'll really enjoy this recipe and many others from The Food52 Cookbook. make sure that one of you does, I'm offering up a free copy to one lucky commenter!
The Giveaway winner will receive a copy of "The Food52 Cookbook: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks" by Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs.
To enter, simply leave a comment here on this post.
You may enter multiple times by sharing this giveaway with your friends or followers on Facebook and/or Twitter {one extra entry for each, totaling 3 maximum entries}.  In order to be eligible to win you must comment here under this post.  Please leave your contact information so I can contact you if you win!  The winner will be chosen at random on the morning of Monday, December 19th.  Good Luck!
UPDATE: The winner of this giveaway {chosen using a random number generator} is - Comment #9 Lauren H.  Congrats Lauren!!  {It's your second giveaway win!  You sure are a lucky lady!}


Mari said...

I burst out laughing over your thoughts about raisins.
I would be thrilled to see the beautiful layout and photos and make the recipes, if only vicariously on some.
Love taking a long, hot soak and reading cookbooks; this looks to be a gem.

Laurie {Simply Scratch} said...

I loooooooove fennel. Raw or roasted, I love it all... this sound fabulous, I'll probably make mine with the raisins :)!

Valerie said...

I love raisins on their own, but once they are in food I cannot eat them either! I'm glad to see I'm not the only one. Winning the Food52 cookbook would be awesome. I am a beginner cook, but I can usually follow a recipe pretty well. It would help that these recipes have been tested and well-liked. My e-mail is Thanks!

eila {full plate} said...

I can't wait to try this couscous recipe! Like you I'd go with cranberries...but I am most excited about the fennel addition. Have never combined these 2 textures. Love those hearty bulbs in winter! And... I need some juicy new winter reading!!

Joanne said...

I love Food52 and have entered a few things, but always love keeping track of the contest entries and winners! So much inspiration there.

I love roasted fennel and it sounds like the perfect accompaniment to this couscous!

Leslie said...

No place to cook since my kitchen is Gone. I have been going crazy buying new cookbooks since I can't cook .... Hopefully when the kitchen is finished I'll actually want to cook ... I have great plans for great parties ...we'll see if that actually happens.

JuLo said...

I don't eat nearly enough fennel!

JuLo said...

I posted your giveaway on twitter. :)

Lauren H. said...

Fennel...I'm not sure I've ever cooked with that. I just found their site and have been inundated with emails from them, do you find that? May have to try this - and look at the site a little bit closer too.

Unknown said...

Maybe this will convince my husband that couscous is good!

Genevieve said...

What a beautiful winter salad! I would love to see all the recipes in the cookbook!

Lauren Brown said...

Yummy! I love couscous, and would love the new cookbook!

Maria Stuart said...

I'm going to make this for dinner tomorrow. It looks yummy. I too love Food52!

Aggie said...

I love fennel. This looks like a great way to serve it up! I tend to only eat it raw and paired with oranges.
Need to check out that cookbook!

Alexander said...

OMG - this sounds SO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!

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