Monday, March 1, 2010

making the best of it

All thoughts of dining al fresco anytime soon have flown out the window. The long haul of winter just seems to be getting longer each day.

We still need to eat, drink and be merry, don't we?  A season defying hors d'oeuvre that I love is something I call Moroccan Couscous Rolls. They are a play on the classic stuffed grape leaves. The difference is I use collard greens for the wrap and seasoned couscous for the filling. The rolls are served with a fruity sweet and sour glaze. As is my style, I rarely make this exactly the same way twice. Instead I improvise from a basic plan and taste everything as I go to create a balanced flavor that has some character.

Collard greens are perfect for this dish because they are large, cook quickly in boiling water, and hold their shape when tender. They give the rolls structure and a fresh mild green taste. After blanching till tender, I will carefully run a knife along the rib of each leaf to remove the raised section so they will lay flat. This is a bit time consuming and requires a little attention with a steady hand, but it is not difficult to achieve.

For the filling I mix steamed couscous with pine nuts, chopped mint, currents, a dash of cinnamon and a plop of mayonnaise to keep everything together. The variations on what to add are endless. One of my favorite additions is pomegranate seeds, for color and a pop of juiciness.

The glaze is simply some fruit jelly melted down with a little splash of vinegar, salt and lemon juice. I just keep tasting this mixture as it cooks to get the right balance of flavors. I aim for a pronounced tart fruitiness that is not overly sweet.
Ikea's Lingonberry preserves is one of my favorites. It has the deep fruity flavor I am going for and a tiny hint of bitterness to keep it interesting.

Wrapping the rolls is fairly simple once you get the hang of it. Lay a leaf out flat, put about a teaspoon of filling in the center, fold the two sides in as flaps, then fold up the bottom flap to cover the filling, and roll up toward the top. It does require nimble fingers and a bit of experimenting to get your technique down, but it is easily mastered.

The collard leaves can be blanched the day before and stored in a stack, wrapped in plastic in the fridge till you are ready to begin rolling. The finished rolls can be made hours in advance and chilled in the fridge before serving. I like them a little bit cold, it adds to the freshness as you bite into them.
These little cuties are great with other hors d'oeuvres, especially heavier items that might be fried or cheesy, as they lend a light counterpoint to the spread. They are also really good the next day when you are grazing in front of the fridge looking for a tasty leftover nibble.

Any wine suggestions Amanda?

Wow! This really looks like such a fun, festive dish! It's beautiful! I would love to give this a shot, and I think I will. However, something tells me mine might not come out as exquisite and lovely as Deb's! Love this recipe for the Spring! In fact, I am so excited about my wine selection for this dish! As Spring approaches, I crave Rose. And everything about this recipe just calls out for a juicy, lush Rose with hints of spice! The spice and berry fruit flavors of the wine are perfect for the combination of cinnamon and mint flavors of the cous cous, as well as the fruit preserves. Yum Yum!

Belle Glos makes a delightful Rose - the Oeil de Perdrix Pinot Noir Blanc. (Oeil de Perdrix is French for eye of the partridge) It is rich and full-bodied, with bold berry flavors. I envision sipping this wine while enjoying Deb's Moroccan Cous Cous Rolls on a warm Sunday afternoon! Makes me extremely eager for Spring to arrive! This food-friendly Rose retails for around $16.99.

I have also mentioned the Crios Rose of Malbec before, made by one of my favorite producers, Susana Balbo in Argentina. A lovely bouquet of fresh berries delights the nose, while flavors of cherries, strawberries and spice dance on the palate! I adore this wine! I couldn't think of the more perfect wines for this recipe! Balbo's Crios line (all delicious) can be found for around $14.99.

I would also recommend pairing a sparkling Rose, something inexpensive would work just fine. The Chandon Brut Rose from California  sells for around $16.99. A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir, this is a creamy, fruit forward sparkler which is the perfect addition to any Springtime get-together!

Can't wait to test out this dish (and of course, the wine to go with it!)


  1. Deb and Amanda,
    Enjoying your blog and the back and forth with the recipe and wine pairing - very clever and informative. Can't wait to your Moroccan Couscous Rolls. Yum.

  2. Hi Lynn,
    Thank you so much for your comments! I'm glad you are enjoying the blog. I love your site and the way you have marketed it - so your words mean a lot!

  3. Really nice idea! I'd love to try it. If gluten free would you recommend maybe using quinoa instead of couscous?

  4. Thank you!
    Quinoa would be a great substitute. I would add a little extra mayo to make sure the filling clings together. I have had quinoa rolls elsewhere that completely fall apart.


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