Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad. PS, I leave for Europe in 9 days

In 9 days, I’ll be boarding a plane that will initially drop me off in Stockholm. From there I’ll go to 14 more countries/23 more cities in two months (!!!!!!!!). Trying to contain my excitement. This has been in the making since my trip to Europe last summer.

When I was there last summer, I studied abroad in Italy, learned how to make authentic Italian dishes from a little Italian lady and did some minor weekend traveling.

Last years trip to the Grana Padano Cheese factory, one of my cooking classes with my Italian instructor and the Olive Oil factory:

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That was enough to get me saving and planning for this trip I’m about to embark on. I won’t be doing as much cooking as I did my previous time (only a few simple dishes cooked in hostels), but I’ll be going to a ton more countries. My goal for this trip is to not only see new things, places and people, but also to taste new cuisines to inspire a few new dishes to add to my upcoming cookbook!

Once I get back, official recipe testing and cook book creating will be on the way! Lots of work to be done, so before the madness and as a graduation gift to myself… Europe it is.

Here’s probably the last recipe I’ll be posting in a while. But don’t worry! This isn’t the last for two months. I’ll be posting about my experience abroad, the food I eat and the workouts/hikes/classes I do.

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Israeli Cous Cous Mediterranean Salad

serves 2

Ingredients

1 pre-cooked chicken breast, torn into bite sized pieces

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/3 cup dry israeli cous cous

1/2 cucumber, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half

1 green bell pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/4 cup thinly chopped red onion

1/4 cup goat cheese crumbles

1 handful italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

7 large basil leaves, thinly sliced (julienned)

2 small garlic cloves, sliced

1 small chunk of either grana padano or parmigiano reggiano cheese (you’ll need a micro grater to grate this)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

salt

1. Make the Israeli cous cous. In a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil on medium heat. Add the Israeli Cous Cous and stir around, toasting the cous cous for about five minutes. Add 2/3 cup water, raise to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 5-6 minutes and then drain excess liquid. Put this to the side to cool while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

2. Make the pesto. You can either use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. I think the pesto tastes 1000000x better when made with a mortar and pestle, but it’s up to you. Combine the pine nuts and garlic in the mortar. Crush until the ingredients almost form a paste. Add the olive oil and basil and crush/grind. This process takes a few minutes. Lastly, stir in about 2 tablespoons of micro grated parmigiano reggiano or grana padano cheese and a pinch of salt.

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3. In a large bowl, combine the cooked chicken, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley, tomatoes and onions. Pour the pesto on top and toss to combine. Separate the mixture into two bowls or plates and top with the israeli cous cous and goat cheese crumbles.

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Vegetable gratin done Italian

As some of you may know, I’m in Verona, Italy right now studying the Mediterranean diet! I’m literally in centuries old buildings learning old school Italian recipes from a native Italian. It IS as awesome as it sounds. Today we learned three vegetable dishes, but one was my particular favorite and actually pretty easy to put together.

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*thats me in the middle (orange shirt) with our teacher to my right holding up our semi completed vegetable gratin that she had just taught us how to make!

This gratin recipe is not the typical, super cheesy and greasy potato gratin that you may be thinking of, but it definitely still delivers on the flavor!!

Vegetable Gratinor
serves 6
ingredients
1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
2 medium potatoes
4 ripe tomatoes
1 eggplant
2 white onions
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon oregano
Salt and pepper

1. Cut all the ingredients up until the breadcrumbs into medium sized strips. Preheated the oven to 390 degrees.
2. Lay the vegetables evenly on a large baking sheet so that nothing is overlapping.
3. Mix the bread crumbs with the cheese and oregano then sprinkle the mixture over the vegetables. Add about a teaspoon of salt and pepper over the top as well.
4. Drizzle the olive oil all over the top of the veggies and put into the oven for 30 minutes.

Many more Italian recipes to come! I forgot to get a picture of the end result, but trust me, this is definitely one to try out.

First hand studying the Mediterranean Diet this summer

I’ve read about the Mediterranean Diet (along with dozens of other diets/lifestyles) and I’ve even tried living it. Nothing can really match experiencing the Mediterranean Diet IN the Mediterranean. So, this summer from May 23-June 20 I will be in Verona, Italy living and learning about the the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. I will be taught each day by my professor the science behind the diet. After the lesson, we will be brought to a locals kitchen where they actually TEACH us how to make the food that we learned is so healthy for us! Then, in proper Mediterranean Diet fashion, we will all sit around a large table for lunch and dinner and eat what we have created as a group enjoying each other’s company.

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We will also visit olive oil production plants, cheese production plants and vineyards to discover where the food really comes from and how it is made. I will also be exploring the city of Verona and trying local restaurants and discovering what life is really like in the area.

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Each day, I will post the food I eat, the things I experience and the science to back it all up!

After my time in Verona, I will travel a little through out Europe on my own and discover other ways of eating and living. I believe in creating an arsenal of information by experiencing things first hand. It’s one thing to read and write about a diet and lifestyle and another to live it.

So if you are interested in my European adventure in food, make sure to follow my blog (especially this summer) to see what Europe has to offer!