Couscous Cakes & Heirloom Salad

Couscous Cakes

My friend Morgan and I often find ourselves playing “Chopped” in the kitchen where we decide to make dinner together with only the ingredients we currently have in the refrigerator / pantry. The menu is never set until we look at the ingredients each of us have contributed and we just “wing it!” We’ve never had a bad “Chopped” dinner date but I must say our couscous cakes with avocados and heirlooms has been the BEST and most beautiful “Chopped” dish to date. This entrée can easily be made into an appetizer or side salad. The creaminess of the avocado married with the crispy texture of the cakes and freshness of the heirloom salad makes this dish a winner in our “chopped” series of recipes.

CousCous Cakes How To

  • 1 1/2 cup couscous, cooked and cooled
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 egg
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh thyme
  • 1 basket small heirloom tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese balls, cut in half
  • Olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Cook couscous per the directions on box and let cool. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Once couscous has cooled; combine one egg, shredded mozzarella, basil, thyme, salt and pepper to the couscous. Mix well and form small patties. Cook patties in 1 or 2 batches over medium heat, flipping once until the patties are crisp and golden brown on both sides (about 5 – 6 minutes each side). Repeat the same steps for the remaining patties.

While the couscous cakes are cooking, prepare the heirloom salad. Combine the heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and torn basil with a heavy drizzle of olive oil and a few dashes of red wine vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Cut avocados in half, remove the pit and slice lengthwise. Fan avocado slices on plate and place the warm couscous cakes on top. Finish with the heirloom salad.

Makes 6-8 cakes.

CousCous Cakes & Rose

Enjoy! ~ Crystal


Wine Pairing

2012 Muscardini Rosato di Sangiovese

Muscardini Rosato di Sangiovese

Muscardini Cellars is one of my favorite wineries in Sonoma Valley and owner/winemaker Michael is one of the coolest guys around. If you are ever in the Sonoma County area, this is a must on your winery to-do list. Michael’s 2012 Muscardini Rosato di Sangiovese opens up with vibrant strawberry and watermelon notes with a hint of wild berries and citrus. Perfectly balanced with a crisp and clean finish.

This is a perfect spring and summertime wine that makes a wonderful aperitif, yet pairs deliciously with simple fare such as fruit, mild cheeses and charcuterie, fish, salads and lighter fare. The perfect picnic wine! Click here to learn more about Muscardini Cellars!


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Pearl Couscous Avocado-Plum Salad

Plum Avocado SaladA few weekends ago  I picked a large basket of ripe plums from the backyard and OH MY…. they were delicious! In the past, we’ve made plum jam, chilled plum soup, plum butter, etc. but as I was browsing for inspiration on what to do next with the plums I came across a simple and tasty recipe from Valentina’s blog cookingontheweekends.com.  I didn’t have black quinoa or mixed baby greens, as her recipe suggested, so I swapped it for pear couscous and baby spinach instead.

This salad was not only tantalizing to look at, but it was delicious and SO easy to make . The bright acidity in the dressing matched with the sweetness in the plums make this the PERFECT summer treat!

Freshly picked plums and a cup of pear couscous.

Freshly picked plums and a cup of pearl couscous.


Click here for the recipe from Valentina’s blog. Enjoy! ~Crystal


Pearl Couscous With Dry Fruits, Nuts and a Citrus Vinaigrette

Pearl Couscous

As you know from my previous post, I LOVE couscous. What is couscous exactly? It’s a coarsely ground pasta made from semolina, a type of wheat. Why do I love it?  It’s versatile, healthy (loaded with protein, selenium and potassium)  and it’s quick to prepare.

Today’s recipe is a beautiful fusion of Israeli couscous (pearl couscous), dried fruits, fresh herbs, local  cheese and nuts inspired by friend and Executive Chef, Robin Lehnhoff-McCray.

This easy lunch or light dinner option pairs perfectly with a nice crisp Sauvignon Blanc and a warm afternoon on the patio.  Enjoy and cheers to the warmer days ahead!

  • 4 cups cooked Pearl Couscous
  • ¼ cup dry apricots, chopped
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup dry cranberries
  • ½ bunch fresh mint, chopped
  • ½ bunch Italian parsley, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1 cup Valley Ford Estero Gold cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup toasted almonds
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
  • ¾ cup citrus vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Chill for 1 hour then serve.

Serves 5


Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon Meyer lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • ½ cup Meyer lemon juice
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine zest, mustard, juices, sugar and parsley. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (This recipe makes 1 ½ cups of vinaigrette. Save the remaining dressing and toss with fresh greens the next day!)

*Enjoy – Crystal