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A Meal Worthy Of A 'Silver Palate'

CHEF ON A SHOESTRING: Couscous
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When Sheila Lukins and her co-author published "The Silver Palate Cookbook" in 1982, they broke new culinary ground by introducing home cooks to ingredients such as sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese, which are now seen as staples.

Lukins has continued to tempt America's palate with a variety of cookbooks through the years. And as the food editor at Parade magazine, she not only concludes the series "What America Eats," but takes the Chef on a Shoestring challenge.

She prepares a three-course meal for four on a $40 budget. Try her recipes for Roasted Beets and Walnuts Salad, Chicken Marbella with Orange-Scented Couscous, and Lime Baked Bananas.

Roasted Beet and Walnut Salad

Ingredients:
4 to 6 medium-size beets, about 2 pounds, rinsed, stem ends and roots trimmed to 1 inch
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
4 Belgian endive, halved lengthwise, and then crosswise in the diagonal 4 ounces Danish blue cheese, coarsely crumbled

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil. Place them on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 1 hour (about 1 1/2 hours if they are large). Remove the beets from the oven and set aside until they are just cool enough to handle. Then unwrap the beets and slip the skins off.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and continue whisking until thickened. Set aside.
  3. Cut the beets into a 1/2-inch dice and place them in a bowl. Lightly toss with the dressing.
  4. Just before serving, add the walnuts to the beets. Arrange the endive on individual salad plates. Divide the beets equally atop each salad and sprinkle with the cheese.

Chicken Marbella

Ingredients:
2 chickens, 3 pounds each, quartered, excess fat removed
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/4 cup capers with a bit of juice
3 bay leaves
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro leaves

Method:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, salt, olive oil, vinegar, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  3. Arrange the chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon the marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.
  5. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, prunes, olives, and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley. Serve with the remaining juices.

Orange Scented Couscous

Ingredients:
2 cups water
1 cup couscous
1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method:

  1. Bring the water to a boil over high heat in a medium-size saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the couscous, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes.
  2. Uncover and fluff the grains with a fork. Stir in the orange zest and juice, the olive oil, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Remove to a serving bowl and serve immediately.

Lime Baked Bananas

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 bananas (I use 2 extra bananas in case one breaks)
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
Vanilla or Coconut Ice Cream, optional

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  2. Using some of the butter, butter a shallow baking dish large enough to hold the bananas.
  3. Peel the bananas and lay them in the prepared dish. Drizzle with lime juice and sugar, and dot with the remaining butter.
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, basting once or twice with the butter sauce. Serve hot, carefully removing the bananas to a platter with a long spatula. Spoon the sauce over the top and serve with ice cream if desired.