Monday, January 08, 2007

Two ways to enhance the flavor by toasting first...

To keep the freezer stocked with a variety of snacks, yesterday we baked a pan of Butterscotch Blondies. This recipe begins with an important step - unsalted butter is melted until it releases a nutty aroma and starts to turn from the clearer melted color to a definite browned appearance. Since you will be adding eggs to browned butter, you need to let it cool for 10-15 minutes so as to not cook the eggs. For the dry ingredients, I thought I would include some whole-wheat pastry flour with the all-purpose to match the nutty flavor the butter adds. I also used a combination of dark and light brown sugars to give a richer depth to the sweetness in these blondies. The texture of these bars is very chewy and while they are exceptionally sweet, we both agreed it was not too sweet to thoroughly enjoy.

Let me say that if you are looking for a more true butterscotch flavor as the recipe name leads to, you may be disappointed. However, they are delicious and I would make them again. These are best eaten after they have had a chance to sit around to allow the flavors to deepen - good on day one, but even better today!

In tonight's dinner, Curried Couscous, Spinach, and Roasted Tomato Soup, we used a kind of couscous we have not used before - it was not all that easy to find either. Instead of the smaller couscous, this recipe uses Israeli couscous - the pearls are much bigger and have different texture when cooked. About the size of tapioca pearls, these are more related to pasta as they are extruded... similar to orzo.

Wedges of thick plum tomatoes are first roasted in the oven under high heat until very tender and they begin to turn lightly browned. While these roast, the base flavors of the soup begin by sautéing onions until soft, followed by the addition of the toasted couscous, curry powder, hot madras curry powder and garlic. The tender tomato wedges are then added along with some turkey stock. After simmering until the couscous is almost tender, fresh baby spinach is added right before serving and allowed to gently wilt. To deepen the flavor of the soup and add a hint of heat, I used two kinds of curry powder - you can use which ever curry powder you would like. The turkey stock that I used was leftovers from Thanksgiving that I had in the freezer - again, feel free to use chicken stock or broth if that is what you already have on hand. Toasting the couscous before using added another layer of flavor to the soup - we also both liked how this couscous had more bite to it and did not turn mushy.


  1. You are indeed right, Israeli couscous has nothing to do with couscous, neither in substance nor in preparation method and is far more similar to orzo. This Israeli product was developed in the early 50th when Israeli economy wasn’t that great and rice and wheat were quite expensive and sometimes even rationed. It comes in two varieties, one that looks like large couscous and the other that is similar to rice in shape (today they also have more shapes to appeal to kids- such as tiny stars).
    Unlike orzo, the usual cooking method used for Israeli couscous is more similar to that of rice than to that of pasta.
    Hami- an Israeli reader

  2. I have a standby recipe that I took from the City Cuisine cookbook for a brown butter blueberry tart. Kind of combines the best of two of your recent posts! The nutty flavour from the butter is unmistakeable, though, and truly lovely.

    Keep up the magnificent work with the cooking, Joe. Your blog continues to inspire!

  3. Hami - Thanks for the additional information!

    Peter - Thanks! I need to try more recipes with browned butter - we loved the flavor!

  4. You cook such delicious recipes..
    but I can not try them because we can not find some of the ingredients in Turkey..such a pitty..

    in any case,congratulations..

    great job!


  5. After seeing these on your blog and seeing the recipe in the latest Cooking Light I made them last night. I followed the recipe but I added butterscotch chips for some additional butterscotch flavor! Do you often use half whole wheat half all purpose flour in your recipes? I will try this variation next time.

  6. Stephanie - I do use that combination a lot - you may see it often if you browse the baking recipe section!