Global Cuisine

couscousisraelveggiesbowlTraditional couscous has a home in the flavorful cuisines of North Africa. Tunisia, Morocco, Egypt, and Libya have perfected a small grained, steamed couscous that contrasts well with their spicy sauces. Preparing authentic couscous requires a steamer and considerable patience. The result, while delicious, is too time-consuming for most people.

Instant couscous is now widely available, made with either white or whole wheat flour. Requiring only 10 minutes in a hot water bath, this small grained version is perfect for a grilled vegetable couscous salad.

There is also a larger pearl-sized, "Israeli" couscous, which is prepared in a manner similar to risotto. The grains are first lightly toasted in olive oil, then a liquid is added. The grains soak up the liquid as they cook and expand 2-3 times their original size. With the addition of vegetables or meat, this version can easily be a main course.

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porkdumplingsI love the custom of Chinese dim sum because it brings friends and family together at the table. This style of food is enjoyed with small plates, which allows the diner the opportunity to enjoy many different dishes in small quantities. For me it's a way to find a favorite and stick with it. In every Chinatown in the United States you would be hard pressed not to find a restaurant offering dim sum or what I like to call Chinese brunch. I remember my first time at a dim sum place in New York with a group of Asian friends. I was lucky to have help in deciphering the menus and communicating with the waitresses, who brought out the food on trolleys and took orders by stamping slips of paper. It's truly an experience that transports the nonnative eater to China.

It's been many years since I've had good traditional dim sum and my longing for dumplings has increasingly grown since. With the arrival of Chinese New Year, there is no better reason to make my dim sum favorite, shu mai, at home. These dumplings are typically made of shrimp and pork, but they can also be made of pork and mushroom, and even mutton, depending on the regional cuisine. No matter the filling, shu mai always retain a characteristic look: they sort of resemble little volcanoes with filling erupting from their tops. They only need limited skill to form the shape and the best shortcut of all is using wonton wrappers instead of making the dough. It takes just minutes to bring together this easy dim sum, which also makes a fun party appetizer.

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TART.chilirell.slice .sm Generally, on Cinco de Mayo, we go out to one of two of our favorite Mexican restaurants. I grew up going to Casa Vega. It truly is, in my opinion, the best, authentic restaurant in Los Angeles. The enchilada sauce is perfection, the crispy tacos with shredded beef cannot be beat, and the margaritas kick your butt. More importantly, it holds a whole lot of nostalgia for me. Another favorite is Lucy’s Cafe El Adobe. There is really nothing better than their bar-b-q beef tacos!

This year we are eating home. I have planned a festive meal to share with my family and I am making some of our favorites. Along with our favorites, I wanted to make something new. What I really wanted to make was chile rellenos. I don’t even order chili rellenos in a restaurant, but I had an anchoring to make these.

I looked through my Diana Kennedy Cookbook, a book I have had for over 30 years. I have made several of her recipes, but she did not really have a chile relleno recipe. Sooooo, I turned to the trusty Internet. I searched Saveur, Food & Wine, Cooking Light, and Epicurious. Epicurious was the winner. I found this recipe for a tart and I immediately knew that I wanted to make this dish.

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GRILLEDSALMONIn other places in the world, September is the month that the heat of summer gives way to the welcome chill of fall.  Sadly for those of us in L.A., September is just a cruel extension of August…but with more traffic.

And if you, like me, are looking to keep the heat out of the kitchen this fall, here’s another skinny dish you can make on the grill that’s easy enough for a weeknight supper yet festive enough for a weekend party: Southwestern Spiced Salmon with Black Bean, Cucumber and Mango Salsa.

Without much effort (unless you consider opening a can of beans a work-out), this delicious dinner can be made on the fly in less than 30 minutes.  Or, if you’re cooking for a crowd, the salmon can be seasoned and the salsa can be prepared ahead and you can have dinner plated and served in just 20!

But the real magic isn’t just how easy it is…it’s how satisfying and nutritious it is…

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southweststirfrySometimes it's all about conveinance and this meal definitely was. The best part, it was full of flavor but ready in minutes. The cheesy, salsa-flavored grits are the base for this simplistic vegetable saute.

By utilizing frozen veggies from the refrigerator and a couple of canned goods from the pantry, this meal was on the table in no time. It's also vegetarian, a good break from all the red meat we seem to eat around here.

In my house, "grits" has always been called "polenta" and there is nothing like real, stone-ground grits (polenta), but in a pinch, instant worked great. There is lots of flavor here, it's really a nice meal. Quick grits can be found near the oatmeal and other hot cereals or near cornmeal in the baking aisle...look for it.

Now, would my kids eat this? No. Too many foods touching each other but for me....the perfect lunch or dinner.

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