Michael Voltaggio's ...

DINNER FOR FOUR UNDER $10

Judge for yourself: The reigning Top Chef champ offers up one of his recipes

BELL PEPPER COUSCOUS WITH TOMATO-HARISSA BROTH

• 2 cups dry couscous

• 1 tsp. olive oil

• 1 red bell pepper, diced

• 4 cups vegetable stock

• 1 tsp. sugar

• ¼ cup raisins

• 1 shallot

• ¼ cup pine nuts

• ¼ cup olive oil

• 1 tsp. ras el hanout spice (or ¼ tsp. each of cumin, ginger, cinnamon and turmeric)

• ¼ cup cilantro leaves

• salt to taste

BROTH:

• 3 large tomatoes

• 1 tsp. harrissa paste (or hot sauce)

• salt, sugar to taste

1. Dice red pepper and sauté in 1 tsp. of olive oil over medium heat for 3 minutes. In a medium pot, bring the stock, peppers and sugar to boil. Add the couscous. Remove from heat and cover the pot. Leave covered until the couscous has absorbed all of the liquid, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

2. Chop tomatoes. Blend with salt and sugar to taste. Add harrissa and mix in blender until liquid. Pour into a small pot, bring to a simmer. Place a coffee filter in a strainer and place over a container. Once broth has simmered, pour contents into the lined strainer. Yield a clear broth in the container, about 1 cup.

3. Heat a medium sauté pan. Add ¼ cup of olive oil. Add shallot, pine nuts and raisins and sauté. Add couscous and ras el hanout, toss until fluffy. Season with salt to taste. To serve, place couscous in a bowl and pour broth around. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves.

HOME

BE A WRAP STAR!

Alton DuLaney of Kate's Paperie (stationer to stars like Martha Stewart) shares tips for dressing up presents

Alton's wrapping tips

1 My main three rules are:

No Exposed Edges (Fold in seams and secure them with tape).

No Exposed Tape (Use double stick or glue dots).

Crisp Clean Corners (Run your finger along every edge of the box).

2 Lay off red and green. Deep eggplants (and jewel tones in general) are a huge trend.

3 You need more ribbon than you think. A standard shirt box takes three yards. And don't cut the ribbon from spool until you've tied your bow!

"If it can fit through the door, we'll wrap it," says Alton, at the shop beloved by Sienna Miller.

"This is the gift that keeps on giving," says Alton of Kate's Paperie's handmade boxes. Better yet: no gift wrap required!

Alton used wired ribbon under satin to better shape his bow and added mini ornaments: "It makes packaging part of the present!"

The gift wrap shown here is available at katespaperie.com

Photo of the Week: MOCK THY NEIGHBOR?

The bright idea on Dave Nosek's Chicago-area home (right) is becoming a symbol in these thrifty times. The "Ditto" idea was dreamed up by Nosek's neighbor Chet Cybulski, who went all out on his own Christmas display. Nosek is digging the attention. "It struck me as funny that some people didn't get it and viewed me as a Grinch," he says. "But for every negative comment there were 10 positive ones."

TRAVEL

Leona Lewis on ...

ENGLAND FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

The British pop star shares her list of must-dos when she's home for Christmas

MAHIKI CLUB

MAYFAIR, LONDON

"I like to go out with my friends dancing, and Mahiki is a favorite," says Lewis of this hot spot, known for its tropical cocktails and celebrity clientele. Info: mahiki.com

HORSEBACK RIDING

ESSEX, ENGLAND

"I love riding horses," Lewis says, "and at Christmas I get time off, so I can really spend time at the stables in the countryside and enjoy it!" Info: localriding.com/essex-riding-schools.html

HAMLEYS TOY STORE

REGENT STREET, LONDON

"I love taking my nephew here to shop for pressies. It's so full of Christmas spirit! They have people doing demonstrations of all the toys, which is always good fun." Info: hamleys.com

Lewis's latest CD, Echo, came out last month.

ENTERTAINING

Robert Verdi's

HOLIDAY PARTY CHECKLIST

The celeb planner on how to shop for a quick, tasty fete for 15 people

WHAT TO BUY

• 3 bottles each of red and white wine ("I recommend merlot and pinot grigio," says Verdi.)

• 1 loaf of sourdough bread

• 1 box of breadsticks (Display in hollowed-out sourdough bread.)

• 1 baguette, sliced and placed around bread loaf

• 2 hard and 2 soft cheeses ("I recommend Camembert, sharp cheddar, goat and Gorgonzola," he says.)

• ¾ lb. each of thinly sliced meats such as prosciutto, Genoa salami, pepper salami

• 2 different kinds of hummus (regular and red pepper) with 2 kinds of crackers for dipping

Verdi is a spokeman for Ecco Domani wines.

  • Contributors:
  • CONTRIBUTORS Antoinette Y. Coulton,
  • Amy Elisa Keith,
  • Suzanne Zuckerman,
  • with Joyce Chen.