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!


Bottle Opened..Why Ever Close?

Wine Bottle Aprons & Stilettos

By: Mike Madigan

Wine: local Sonoma County blend. Occasion: I want to drink it. Often times, too much is made of wine. Itʼs plainly, blatantly, over-thought. You open whatever bottle you want. Thatʼs how it should be. Thatʼs my “cellar philosophy.” This industry, unarguably run by consumers. And we, as the consumers, pushing “the industry” into its profitable future, need to not be shy with our penchants, habits, standing up to the self-elevating, the name hogs, the loudness. Another sip, asking mySelf, “Should I have waited to open this?” It may have benefited from a little more cellar time, yes. But what harm was done? I learned. And frankly, Iʼm enjoying where this three-varietal spin is, in its incunabulum– How it connects with me, right now, in this moment, the one I ordered.

Canʼt tell you how many people Iʼve met, while in “the industry,” that simply love to hear themselves talk. They canʼt wait to tell you whatʼs in their cellar, how MANY bottles they have, and then compare it to what people around them have, eager to one up anyone offering opinion. Is this wine? Is this what wineʼs dimension demands? Is this a wine moment? No, to all. Thereʼs no wine in it. These character types scalpel out the consumer, the sincerely ardent wine lover. Closed in their mind, closing out all around them, those open to hearing othersʼ experiences, trying other wines. What do these self-knighted grape sages get from their perceived ascension? They get themselves, their vision of themselves. Reflection… Them. Theyʼre not thinking about wine. At all. Their interest is them, their voice, their cellar, their shockwaving trump show.

And here I am, writing about them. Which, you could argue, serves simply a time waste. It is, youʼre right. But I just had to note it, somewhere. We, the open sippers, enjoy all associated with wine– from the vineyard, to the harvest, crushing, coldsoaking, yeast inoculation, oak regiments, aging, racking, blending trials, bottling strategy. Itʼs the wine that turns us into such fortified fervency. How is any eminence associated with something so Human, so universal as wine (which is, after all, merely a beverage). And mine, what Iʼm sipping between types, evermore enrapturing. And it was opened prematurely, by ME. A mistake of which Iʼm inexorably proud, as itʼs part of THIS wine moment. I learned. Its imperfection is what makes it perfect. And if not perfect, then holistically Human.

Now: content. Why: the moment, the wine with which Iʼve it paired. Maybe I should have some sort of cellaring philosophy, but not right away. If I want to open a bottle, I open it. Iʼm just a consumer. But that doesnʼt mean I canʼt learn more, maybe develop some level of “sophistication,” IF I want to. And I donʼt. This, Wine, not “the industry,” is about love. LOVE, of wine. Of those loving wine, simply enjoying the moments associated with it. Need another glass. Donʼt know if I can discipline myself, in grips of this now-written sight, to close bottle.


Mike MadiganAprons & Stilettos is excited to introduce contributing author and friend Mike Madigan. Mike has a deep passion for writing, wine, art, music, film and food. Check out his Literary wine blog, bottledaux, and connect with him on twitter @Madigan529.

Wine Wednesday Wine Pick: King’s Ransom Pinot Noir

It’s Wednesday, well Wine Wednesday that is, and I’ve selected to feature the 2011 King’s Ransom Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Their philosophy? To craft the best expression of Pinot Noir while capturing the hallmark attributes the Russian River Valley … Continue reading