Monday, July 19, 2010

The Buzz on Near East.

Over the weekend, I hosted a sponsored party by Near East food products!  In my hostess kit, amongst some random goodies, I was sent packages of Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil Couscous (also, I discovered that Near East is currently hosting a sweepstakes.  Enter here to win a variety of prizes including food and trips!)  I was pretty excited to see that they had sent my favorite of their couscous - the garlic and olive oil version is generic enough that you can serve it with quite a variety of main dishes.  As such, I knew I was in business and planned the rest of my menu around the couscous - chicken caponata and a shrimp with feta and tomatoes.

Truthfully, I had to apply to be a hostess and I did consider my application carefully. Ultimately,  I decided to submit my application because it truly fit with my goals of cooking meals, from scratch, with fresh ingredients.  I decided to go with a general theme of Cooking With a Busy Schedule since I know folks are often busy rushing home from sports practices and work.  Near East did send some yummy looking recipes from Chef Peter Bowen  - quite simply, I did not get a chance to test drive these recipes and I wanted to make something with which I had a proven track record (although, hot damn - those lamp chops might be in my future.) Therefore, I chose a chicken caponata because it is an excellent Sunday night dish that would reheat really well later in the week.  And, I chose the shrimp dish because it cooks quickly - if you have rushed home, you can still find time to cook it. (Both recipes can be found in Simply Mediterranean Cooking - although it appears to be out of print?  Is it a violation for me to provide the recipes online? Is there a lawyer in the house?)

Anyway -- the couscous??  Seriously, a no-brainer.  You bring the water to water to boil, throw in the couscous and accompanying spice packet, then take the pan off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes.  That's it.  If you are as leery of packaged food as I am these days, you can also rest easy - the ingredient list was simply couscous, autolyzed yeast extract, olive oil, salt, natural flavor, garlic, onions, soy protein, parsley, spices, tocopherols for freshness, soy sauce ( I have had similarly good experiences using their Long Grain and Wild Rice in my chicken divan.)  In short, their  products can make a perfect side dish to serve with a main dish made by you

Dammit.  Now, I am hungry.  Again.

Gift bags!

A party where social media was more than welcome.
Many hostesses frown upon their guest live-tweeting.  Not me.

Reason #2178943 why I am not a food photographer.
Try as I might, I never could capture how yummy this couscous was.  The fresh parsley sprinkled on top took it over the edge of Delicious.

Reason #2178944 why I am not a food photographer. 
I swear this shrimp with feta and tomatoes was utterly delicious, despite the lack of photographic proof.

This picky eater took the night off. 
Even Arun liked it! I didn't bother including Anjali's snap because that girl will eat anything and cannot be trusted.

A toast to Near East!
A fabulous time was had by all.

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