Clams with Israeli CouscousEveryone loves Israeli couscous. If you remember this, you will always be a fantastic cook and party host.

Honestly, Israeli couscous appeals to young and old diners (you don’t need teeth to enjoy it!). We are comforted, overall, by the simplicity of this pasta.

The “Clams with Israeli Couscous,” from the August 2013 issue of Cooking Light, was an easy sell, for me, with its tomatoey mix of fennel, couscous, white wine, and clams -- and all in a single pot. First things first with clams: I soaked my scrubbed clams in cold water with a handful of salt and a handful of flour, for 30 minutes or so. This expels any sandiness from the clams. Sand in your meal would ruin the party, of course.

Wilted Swiss Chard & MushroomsAfter the “clam soak,” the remaining prep is easy. My clams needed more than 8 minutes to open, once I nestled them atop the couscous in the pot (my clams needed more than 19 minutes at a simmer).

My final clam stew had a bit of spicy heat (1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper), which was fine with us. Again, the key words here are: Israeli couscous.

I also went ahead and made the magazine’s accompanying recipe for “Wilted Swiss Chard and Mushrooms.” Basically, it was unspectacular. But green.

Littleneck Clams (1.5 lbs.) = $12.00
Lemon (1) = .62¢
Swiss Chard (10 oz.) = $1.72
Cremini Mushrooms (6 oz.) = $1.28

PREP TIMES: soak clams for 30 minutes, then cook the stew for another 30 minutes or so; prep and cook the chard and mushrooms in less time
clams taste like ocean, tomato couscous and white wine; chard has no apologies, cooked with shallots and a bit of soy sauce

Next time, I want to make the “Creamy Cauliflower Soup,” from the September/October 2013 issue of Cook’s Illustrated (recipe below), along with the “Wheat Berry, Kale, and Cranberry Salad,” from the September 2013 issue of Cooking Light. Come back to my site next week, to see what happens with this meal.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup
Cook’s Illustrated, September/October 2013
Serves 4 to 6
White wine vinegar may be substituted for the sherry vinegar. Be sure to thoroughly trim the cauliflower’s core of green leaves and leaf stems, which can be fibrous and contribute to a grainy texture in the soup

1 head cauliflower (2 lbs.)
8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and washed thoroughly
1 small onion, halved and sliced thin
 and pepper
4 1/2-5 cups water
1/2 tsp. sherry vinegar
3 Tbsp. minced fresh chives

1. Pull off outer leaves of cauliflower and trim stem. Using paring knife, cut around core to remove; thinly slice core and reserve. Cut heaping 1 cup of 1/2-inch florets from head of cauliflower; set aside. Cut remaining cauliflower crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

2. Melt 3 Tbsp. butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add leek, onion, and 1 1/2 tsp. salt; cook, stirring frequently, until leek and onion are softened but not browned, about 7 minutes.

3. Increase heat to medium-high; add 4 1/2 cups water, sliced core, and half of sliced cauliflower; and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Add remaining sliced cauliflower, return to simmer, and continue to cook until cauliflower is tender and crumbles easily, 15 to 20 minutes longer.

4. While soup simmers, melt remaining 5 Tbsp. butter in 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add reserved florets and cook, stirring frequently, until florets are golden brown and butter is browned and imparts nutty aroma, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and use slotted spoon to transfer florets to small bowl. Toss florets with vinegar and season with salt to taste. Pour browned butter in skillet into small bowl and reserve for garnishing.

5. Process soup in blender until smooth, about 45 seconds. Rinse out pan. Return pureed soup to pan and return to simmer over medium heat, adjusting consistency with remaining water as needed (soup should have thick, velvety texture but should be thin enough to settle with flat surface after being stirred) and seasoning with salt to taste. Serve, garnishing individual bowls with browned florets, drizzle of browned butter, and chives and seasoning with pepper to taste.