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Moroccan Couscous and Food Network Star

So... That happened last night. Great food and awkward demo. What more could you want in reality television? Great for reality tv, not so great for my reputation or credibility. Haha. So before we get into the food, lets get into the episode. I was on a team with Palak and Adam. Pretty solid team and I have zero complaints. Not only are they strong competitors and awesome humans, Palak helped me blindfold someone, so I guess those are #teamgoals or something like that.

If you know me, or even if you don't and you watch the show, you know that I have a very expressive face. In the off chance I succeed at biting my tongue, my face is probably going to tell you exactly what I am thinking. Bobby and Giada are the same way! So when I glanced up and saw their faces, I knew it was not well received. And truthfully,. I knew it was kinda a gimmick. But they said stand out and make it a super interactive demo. Plus, the dude raised his hand and knew what he was getting into. And despite how editing may have made it look, he approached me after and let me know that he really liked being blindfolded. To which I replied, thanks for the help in the demo, I am married. All in all we will call my demo a great face to palm moment and move on. On the plus side, Giada (another "didn't make it to camera moment" said that my dish was her favorite that day. And as Bobby said (on camera), that my food is incredible, but my demos don't match. Then (last then, I promise), Tyler loved my energy, pre blind fold of course. And then (okay, I lied), I say (on camera), "Tyler Florence is here. It is nice to see someone who actually witnessed me doing well here.".

In the end, Jess, Rebecca and I placed in the bottom. I seem to be finding myself there a lot lately. I did so well in Comeback that I was kinda shocked to have lost whatever it was that had me all peppy and jazz. If i could pinpoint it, I would totally turn this boat around. But it seems like I am dead set on being weird for Food Network Star (at least according to editing, lol... but also partially reality).

I would like to thank Jacque Mgido for the great makeup, you can buy it HERE. And I would like to NOT thank my mom and wine for my thighs.

As I mentioned on the show, the dish I made is very similar to one I had on the blog. And since I am literally (okay, figuratively) milking seconds from the day, I am going to recycle said post.

So make some of it, just make the couscous, it is up to you. But the toum is also baller. So is the lamb. We have lamb and couscous, now all we need is grilled squid and #teammorocco is totally represented.

Okay, first, I know how much information and cooking this is to take in. I mean 3 WHOLE separate elements to make. How will your brain ever be able to overcome this insurmountable task? Done mocking you, moving on. But seriously, it is a decent amount of food. The Israeli couscous is something I have been making for a long time. I love it. And the lamb, I love lamb. Smoking it was new, and totally something we will continue to do. The only real labor of love here is the Toum. Aka white sauce, aka garlic sauce, aka Hallal Guys sauce, aka Lebanese Garlic Sauce. I had to give this one a few goes, but ultimately it worked out and was totally worth it!!! Oh, you see naan too? Well I just bought that from the store. A girl can't do everything herself can she?

The good news about "all this work" is that I have assembled your dinner for you, complete with leftovers or party sized portions. You don't have to sit there guessing. Hmmm... what do I want to eat with my lamb? Or what protein goes with Israeli couscous and butternut squash. The only real questions left are which pair of stretchy pants to wear and what wine to drink.

Lamb is one of my favorite meats. It has all of the luxury of red meat, but it has a slight game-y flavor that I just love. I have done it with a pistachio rosemary crust, with wine sauce, you name it. When we purchased our smoker, I kind of set out to smoke a bunch of different kinds of meat. So naturally, I had to go for lamb. I was asking my husband how we should do this lamb leg and he said, "We haven't done anything with Middle Eastern flavors in a while." Sold. Done. That boy is a keeper.

Then I had the daunting task of figuring out what to serve with it. That actually took me all of 2 minutes, but lets add 3 more minutes to the story line for the sake of drama and suspense. So after what felt like forever (j/k), I decided to make this Israeli couscous dish. It has roasted butter nut squash, feta, arugula, toasted almonds and a ton of flavorful herbs and spices. Hey, even if you don't opt to smoke the lamb leg you can always make this tasty side dish.

As I mentioned above, my only real struggle here is the toum. Before you get flustered, let me explain. I cook with an insane amount of garlic and citrus juices. So I always have some pre-peeled garlic and organic lemon and lime juice in my fridge. I had tried 3 times to make the super amazing Lebanese garlic sauce this way, and each time I failed. That doesn't happen often in my cooking... especially 3 times. Short story long. If you use fresh peeled garlic and fresh squeezed lemons, this sauce is actually easy peasy. And if you love garlic. You will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this spread.

For the Toum:

Let's break this baby down, shall we?

And of course, if you do not have a smoker, you can always do this in your oven. You will just be missing the magical smokey flavor. This is absolutely doable in the oven. :)

For the Lamb:

6 lbs lamb leg

1 tbsp nutmeg

1 tbsp cumin

1 tbsp coriander

1 tbsp black pepper

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp turmeric

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tbsp onion powder

1 tbsp garlic powder

1 tbsp garam masala

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 cup Toum (If you do not make the toum, add 6-7 cloves of garlic pureed with the juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 cup olive oil to achieve similar flavor and texture.)

1. Make sure your lamb leg is one solid piece of meat. If it separates/flaps down in places after you unwrap it, then get some butchers twine to tie it up.

2. Combine that long list of flavorful spices, the lemon juice and the toum in a mixing bowl till it forms a thick paste.

3. Coat the lamb down with the rub as evenly as possible.

4. I marinate, dry rub, whatever I cover my meat with or put it in OVERNIGHT whenever I can. If you cannot do this, then have the marinade on as long as possible. However, I am guessing that if you are cooking a 6 lbs lamb leg and stocking your spice cabinet, you are mostly likely planning ahead.

5. Wrap the meat tightly with foil and place it in the refrigerator. (Make sure to put something under the wrapped lamb as well, as it may leak some juices.

1. When you are ready to smoke your lamb, unwrap it from the foil and carefully transport to the smoker.

2. You want to get your smoker in the 275 range. We used apple wood in the smoker for the lamb (and well, a lot of other things)

3. Smoke for 4 hours, making sure to check your smoker and the lamb's internal temperature with a thermometer along the way. Using a dual probe thermometer, a wireless thermometer, or one with a long wire is very helpful when smoking.

Open smoker frequently = bad, naughty, no-no

4. Our 6 lbs lamb was cooked rare/medium rare and we smoked it for 4 hours.

145 degrees = med-rare

160 degrees = medium

well done (please don't do this) = 170 degrees

Israeli Couscous:

And here you can watch a super professional Messy Life, Messy Kitchen video. Because video editing is NOT my thing. (Which I knew, but further reinforced when I watched a bunch of Adobe Premier Pro tutorials today and still got nowhere in life today.)

Oven Roasted Butternut Squash (1 cubed butternut squash, drizzle olive oil, sprinkle salt, garlic powder, cumin, coriander and paprika, 375 for 30 min)

8.8 oz israeli couscous

1/2 yellow onion

5-6 garlic cloves

2 tbsp butter

3/4 cup mint

3/4 cup parsley

3/4 cup cilantro

2 cups toasted almonds (add to pan on high heat, sprinkle with salt, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes or until slightly more browned)

2-3 tbsp olive oil

2-3 lemons, juiced

1-2 oranges, juiced

1 tbsp salt

1 tbsp pepper

1 tbsp coriander

1 tbsp cumin

1/2 tbsp smoked paprika

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1- 1 1/2 cups feta

1 package arugula

1. Roast the butternut squash as described above and cook the Israeli Couscous as described on the packaging (drain and set aside).

2. In a large wok like pan, add butter and melt it down.

2. Finely chop your onions and your garlic and cook them on a medium heat for 5-8 minutes. The onions should be translucent and browning and the garlic should be browning.

3. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin and turmeric to the pan and stir, cooking for 1-2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, the Israeli couscous and the almonds and stir again.

4. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, adding the mint and the parsley.

5. Gently fold in the roasted butternut squash and the cubed or crumbled feta.

6. Feel free to add more salt, olive oil or lemon juice to taste.

Note: I made mine more of a salad, aka lots of arugula topped with the Israeli couscous mixture. And my husband with the awesome metabolism just ate a ton of the Israeli couscous. :)

Feast away! Grab some naan if you want. The toum goes fabulously with the lamb and would also be good mixed into the couscous. Don't forget to spread it on the naan if you grabbed some. :)


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