Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mediterranean Couscous Salad and New Mario Olives Pouches

I love Mediterranean food! Everything from tabbouleh salad to olives. I am picky about my olives, I like high quality kalamata and green olives, preferably from an olive bar at Whole Foods. I enjoy jarred green and kalamata olives in salads and as a snack, but I hate the canned black and green olives that have a rubbery texture and no taste. Few weeks ago I saw something interesting that really got me excited. Snack Pouch seasoned olives without the brine! After I read a few blog reviews I found out that they started selling these at Publix, my local grocery store. I scanned through the ingredients list and when I saw lactic acid on one of the pouches I contacted Mario Olives customer service to find out if the lactic acid was vegan. They responded very quickly that the lactic acid was derived from beets :-) So nothing was standing in my way to try this newest snack hit. As I mentioned before, I am picky about my olives. These olives rock! The taste reminds me the olives from the Whole Foods olive bar, full of flavor, great texture and nice juiciness. So far my favorite variety is the thyme seasoned kalamata. The thyme gives it just enough flavor without overpowering the taste of the kalamata olives. These pouches are very conveniently packaged snacks. There is no brine so there is no mess and I can just eat the olives straight out of the pouches. The pouches are fun and easy to take to work or the cat shelter where I can pour the olives into my mouth without touching the olives with my germy hands :-)
Mario Olives asked me what was my favorite way to use their olives and I told them that either as a snack or in my couscous salad. I have been making this couscous salad for years and wanted to share the recipe with you. It is very easy. I made this recipe with Mario Olives thyme seasoned kalamata olives but you can use any other kalamata olives that you have.
  • Pitted Manzanilla Olives mildly seasoned with Garlic and Thyme
  • Pitted Manzanilla Olives midly seasoned with Chili and Thyme
  • Pitted Kalamata Olives mildly seasoned with Thyme

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

1 cup uncooked couscous (plus 1 1/2 cups water)
7-8 sun-dried tomatoes (dried or packed in olive oil)
1 1.75 oz Mario Olives "thyme seasoned kalamata" or 15-20 kalamata olives of your choice
2 large roasted red peppers (about 3/4 cup chopped)
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs olive oil (less if using olive oil packed sun-dried tomatoes)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and black pepper to taste
Optional additions: 1 diced tomato and 1 medium cucumber, peeled and dices.

There are two easy ways to prepare couscous. You can either bring the water in a saucepan to a boil, remove from heat, add couscous and cover with a lid. Let stand for 5 minutes and fluff up with a fork. Or you can follow my favorite method. Place couscous in a large bowl. Boil the water in a water kettle, pour over the couscous and cover with a large plate. Let stand for 5 minutes and fluff up with a fork.
Place couscous into a large bowl if following the first method and keep the couscous in the original bowl if using the second method.
If you are using olive oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, chop them into small pieces and add them to the couscous. If you are using dry sun-dried tomatoes, you need to soften them in hot water for about 5 minutes before you can chop them. Pour hot water over the tomatoes (enough water to cover them completely) and let sit for 5 minutes. Drain them and add them to the couscous.
Chop the olives and dice the roasted red peppers, add to the couscous. If using fresh tomato and cucumber, add them now. Season with oregano, olive oil and balsamic vinegar and stir until well combined. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.
Serve warm or chilled.

Check out Mario Olives & Specialty Foods Facebook page or follow them on Twitter

The nice guys at Mario Olives sent me the kalamata olives and sweet roasted peppers for this recipe.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mock Lobster Salad

I love vegan mayo based salads, everything from potato salad, mock tuna salad to mock chicken salad. There are many mock tuna and mock chicken recipes out there so I wanted to make something more unique. Most of those salads use seitan, TVP, tofu or chickpeas as the "meat" part. I have created a mock lobster salad despite the fact that I have never eaten the real thing. Growing up in a country without seafood, I had only seen lobster salads in high-end restaurants or while traveling to Mediterranean countries. I first created the salad and then named it.

Do you like cauliflower? I do! When I first made this recipe I used raw cauliflower. The texture was not what I was looking for so I decided to boil the cauliflower first. That made a huge difference in taste and texture. This recipe is very simple and does not require a lot of ingredients. I love this salad as a spread on open-faced sandwiches.

Mock Lobster Salad

1 head cauliflower, rinsed, cored and broken into medium florets (about 7 cups)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup vegan mayo or unsweetened plain soy yogurt (such as WholeSoy & Co
1-2 Tbs lemon juice
Optional-for reddish color effect (similar to lobster) 1/3 cup shredded red radishes
Salt and black pepper to taste

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and cauliflower florets. Return to a boil and cook uncovered over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, or until tender-until you can easily pierce the cauliflower with a fork. Strain, rinse under a cold water and drain.
Grate the cauliflower using a handheld vegetable/cheese grater or a food processor. I used the coarse option on my handheld grater. You can grate yours finer, it will be good either way. Place the grated cauliflower into a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Season with salt and black pepper. This salad tastes the best freshly made, but can be stored in the fridge for up to two days.