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down time, and a recipe

October 16th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

October is a great month for many good happenings in the kitchen, like baking, and soup simmering, and fragrant dishes of all kinds, but THIS October is different as I’m in the midst of a 3-week detox, with many a limitation on what I’m eating. I’m hoping it helps to re-set some health issues I’ve been having, and support more consistent sleep patterns.

It isn’t all bad. I’m actually allowed a lot of delicious foods and I’m never hungry, but I’m wishing I could make pumpkin bread and eat a thick slice dredged in good butter. I’ll be celebrating Halloween by doing just that.

Until then…..

This recipe is so perfect for right now. We’re being drenched in Autumn rain and it’s become quite gloomy outside. Fall color has it’s own beauty against the dull and gray rainclouds, though, and inside your kitchen, this dish can bring a blaze of burnished color to a chilly and uninspiring day.

I first made this dish last Winter and we absolutely fell in love with it. While it does take a bit of work, the flavor is compelling, and well worth a bit of time. Pour a glass of good wine, or a delicious craft beer and sip while you cook, stir and inhale.


Caramelized Vegetables with Pearl Couscous

2 c. pearl couscous
Grapeseed, or coconut oil
1 large sweet potato (about 3/4 pound), peeled and diced, about 1/4″-1/2″
1 large onion (about 1 pound), finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-inch piece fresh ginger — peeled and chopped fine, about 1 tablespoon
1-8oz pkg portabella mushrooms, sliced, with stems removed
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. soy sauce
3 big leaves chard or kale, stalks removed and leaves finely chopped — about 2 cups (I subbed in the equivalent of arugula)
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan, optional

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and salt it generously. Cook the couscous until barely al dente — about 5 minutes. Drain and toss with a generous drizzle of oil so that the grains are lightly coated with oil. Set aside.

Heat a large sauté or frying pan (the largest you have — you want plenty of room and hot surface) over high heat. Drizzle in a little grapeseed or coconut oil (not olive oil — you want an oil with a high smoke point) and heat until very hot. Add the sweet potatoes and arrange them in one layer. Cook them over high heat until they are beginning to caramelize and turn brown — about 4 minutes. Flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions, sprinkling them with about a teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are beginning to turn brown. Add the minced garlic and chopped ginger and stir them into the onions. Push the sweet potato and onions to the edges of the pan, making room in the center.

Add the sliced portabella mushrooms to the hot center of the pan and cook them for 4 minutes without turning them. Then flip and stir them and cook for another 4 minutes. Once browned, stir them in to the sweet potato and onions. Keep the heat at medium, or slightly higher. Stir the vegetables occasionally. You want them richly browned.

At this point everything should be getting well-cooked; the onions should be quite dark brown and the garlic should be golden and soft. The potatoes should be softening.

Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of oil. Pour this into the pan with the vegetables and mix everything together, scraping the bottom as you go. Cook all the elements together for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Then turn the heat up to high, as high as it will go.

Add the couscous gradually, shaking in about a cup at a time, stirring and scraping constantly. Cook the couscous over high heat with the rest of the vegetables for about 5 minutes, letting the couscous get browned on the bottom of the pan, then scraping it up. You are developing a little more color and flavor on the pasta, and helping all the flavors combine. (I cooked this a bit longer to get more flavor in the couscous. The browning of it smells glorious)

Finally, toss the greens into the mix and cook for 1 more minute or until the greens are barely wilted. Turn off the heat and taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot, with shavings of Parmesan if desired. (We didn’t even consider the parmesan. And I don’t think it even needed it.)

Spicy Couscous with Chickpeas

January 8th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

Not long ago, I spoke about taking baby steps towards chickpea appreciation.

I’m getting there. Slowly.

And also slowly, I’m foraging into my cookbook cupboard and removing a few under-appreciated and under-utilized books; books that hold glorious recipes that make me drop my head back on the chair in a sort of agony, due to my tastebuds sorrow over never having tried it, and how delicious does this look anyway?? And why do I have this book with the almost perfect spine and unstained pages? These bitter days of January, bright with sunlight and diamond sparkling snow are perfect for experimentation, for exploring the vast untapped knowledge in these books. Now that I am getting my cross country skis out regularly, it gives me a much needed energy boost and all that drive needs to go somewhere, doesn’t it?  Best get cooking, I say.

Well, hello there beautiful…..


Couscous is about as much fun to say as it is to work with; what other product can you dump in boiling water and forget about, coming back to tender tiny little grains of perfection with zero fuss? What else can be fixed so quickly that you barely have time to chop up a few nuts, or grate some good asiago to mix into it for a stellar side dish? Let’s say couscous….. Cous…..cous.

And this dish turned out gorgeous, if I do say so myself. Brightly colored pepper and carrot nestled up to the rich green of cilantro and with a quick toss of chili garlic sauce, it became just a tiny breath of spice in the mouth, nothing 4-alarm, not a rush of sweat breaking on the brow but just a hint of the heady flavor of chilies. It’s like when you eat something and it evokes a memory that you can’t quite place. Fleeting. Perfect.

Yes, the chickpeas. Right.


I liked the idea of mixing the chickpeas in the all that couscous goodness, the vegetables and bite of chili sauce, but I thought ‘Hey, y’know, they aren’t the right size!’ because it’s all about symmetry in my world- the towels folded edge to edge, the sheets and comforter hanging to the same length on both sides of the bed- symmetry, similar and even. Besides, when faced with a plate of food, especially something like this, it’s all about the teeny-weeny (it is couscous, after all) and so I blended the pepper and carrot in the food processor to mince them fine, whacked the nuts to pieces and took my chef knife to the chickpeas.

I then turned my kitchen into The Flying Chickpea Circus. Did I think at all that those little guys might be quite sprightly?

Oh, and the skins. Ew. That never occurred to me as I lifted my Wustof. I don’t like those skins. But it was time for chin up, marching forward to the finish line. Think symmetry; ignore the skins.


In real time this only took about 15 minutes to pull together, of course, minus the chickpea chasing. I had the vegetables seared and waiting, the cilantro chopped, the nuts fragrant and toasted. A few quick tosses and my fork was present and accounted for, heading to my mouth. So delightful. I think the best part of this dish came later, at dinnertime, as I sat down to a steaming bowl of soup I realized that I wasn’t even that hungry. My small bowl of grains, legumes and vegetables had given me some serious sustenance, a bonus to any recipe.

More chickpea appreciation and a great dish to boot; this works perfectly as a good main course or as a side dish. Increase the chili garlic sauce for your own heat level. Watch for the flying chickpeas.

Spicy Couscous and Chickpeas
The Food and Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams.

1/2 c. chopped pepitas
2 c. chicken broth
2 c. whole wheat couscous
2 t. olive oil
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed seeded and diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed well
1-3 T. chili garlic sauce
Fresh chopped cilantro

Toast pepitas in a hot skillet until fragrant, remove to dish. In same skillet, saute pepper and carrot in oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside. Bring broth to a boil, add couscous and stir, then cover and remove from heat to absorb. In large bowl, combine couscous, chickpeas, pepper, carrot, pepitas and chili garlic sauce. Salt if desired. Top with cilantro.

In the original recipe, the nuts listed are slivered almonds, which would be delicious in this. Toast them as well. The original recipe did not call for carrot, but it definitely improves the overall appearance and nutrition of the dish. Whole wheat couscous was my addition and I think the heartier flavor of the grain is a real boon. Thin the chili garlic sauce with a little water to make mixing more uniform. I subbed cilantro for parsley as I like it better.

Lentil and Couscous Salald

November 7th, 2007 | 5 Comments »

Lentil and Couscous Salad

1 ½ c. lentils
3 c. water
Bring water and lentils to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender but not mushy; 20-25 minutes.

¾ c. couscous
1/3 c. broth or water
1 T/ olive oil
Bring water/broth and oil to a simmer and stir in couscous. Cover and remove from heat, let stand for 5 minutes then fluff with fork.

1 small red, orange or yellow pepper, seeded, cored and diced
1 shallot, peeled and diced
½ c. diced dried apricots
½ c. currants
½ c. chopped almonds

Saute shallot and pepper until soft, add in currants and apricots, cook for 5 minutes. Stir in almonds and remove from heat.

Dressing: Combine together:
½ c. olive oil
3 T white wine vinegar
3 T. lemon juice
2 T. lemon zest
1 t. cumin
1 clove garlic, mashed
2 T. fresh oregano, minced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine lentils, couscous and pepper/apricot mixture, stir to combine. Pour dressing over and toss gently. Chill or serve at room temp. Top with toasted almonds if desired.

Mix in one cup cooked wheatberries, if desired. Your choice.

Recipe Notes:
The original recipe called for the tiny french green lentils, but I used the larger brown ones because it was what I had on hand. Sub in any kind or color you like. You could even use a flavored couscous. Mix up the dried fruit too; cranberries might be yummy. Or omit it all together.