Did you know that couscous is a pasta? A coarsely ground semolina pasta. I love the Israeli variety–delicate white pearls. I also love the cold salad bar at Whole Foods which is where I discovered this dish. The variety of marinated, roasted, steamed, sauteed goodness is overwhelming at times. Before I know it, my little plastic tub is shamefully stacked beyond capacity with garlic kale, plump marinated mushrooms, herb-roasted sweet potatoes and this delicious couscous. People stare in judgement. It’s really a place I shouldn’t go.
Hey! I forgot to tell you that I’m volunteering with Thistles and Clover this weekend. I’ve been emailing with the owner, expressing interest in sustainable agriculture…this eventually led to her asking if I’d like to volunteer with them occasionally. The farm is in Iowa but they deliver meat to customers in Omaha regularly, and recently these drop-days have become more work than they can handle. So I get to help and chat with her while we work. I’ll take some pictures of our day and post them soon along with her answers to my email interview.
1 cup dried cranberries (or use half cranberries, half currants)
1 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 scallions, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons champagne or red wine vinegar
Zest of 1 orange or lemon
Juice of 1/2 orange or 1 lemon
1/2 tsp turmeric
Lots of fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the couscous. Cook to al dente (roughly 8-10 mins) and drain it but do not rinse. Set aside to cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, orange/lemon zest and juice, turmeric and salt and pepper. In a large bowl, combine the cooled couscous, cranberries, pecans and scallions. Pour the well-whisked dressing over couscous, add a good amount of chopped fresh mint and toss to combine. Chill in fridge for a few hours and taste for seasoning again before serving.
I recognize that raspberries are not in season here, BUT we can always get them fresh from California, so I didn’t run with any guilt on this one. You do what you can in January, folks.
This is such a simple (but completely delicious) cake. You can use any berry or no berry at all. Scatter some sliced almonds on top instead. Or make a glaze to go on top. It smells wonderful in the oven and lingers in the air like perfume–it’ll make you happy. Light as a cloud, brightened by lemon and studded with red jewels. The dimples when it comes out are just too much for my little heart…I’m smitten.
Joy in the universe, and keen curiosity about it all – that has been my religion. John Burroughs (Can you tell I like this man?)
Makes 1 (9-inch) cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup sugar (I used half brown sugar and half white sugar), plus extra for topping
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional but encouraged)
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries or other berry (about 5 ounces)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and center oven rack. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
In a larger bowl, beat oil and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed for about two minutes. Beat in vanilla and lemon zest. Add egg and beat well.
At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined. Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with an additional 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar.
Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20-23 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate. Serve with vanilla frozen yogurt for utter joy.
I’m so excited to share this recipe. I’ve been wanting to post it for a while but could never get a decent picture! Comforting and simple but bursting with bold flavors. It’s a favorite Monday night dinner around here and takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. Please don’t judge me for the non-authenticity of these huevos rancheros…”quickie” is right there in the title. And who needs authenticity when you can achieve these flavors in minutes? Not me.
And the best part? As long as you don’t cheat on the amount of cheese or light sour cream, one of these lovely stacked tortillas has around 250 calories. One is always plenty for me, but growing boys probably need two. So this recipe is for three: one for me and two for someone special. Great for breakfast/brunch or dinner.
3 organic eggs
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, undrained
About half of a 16-ounce tub of fresh mild salsa (in refrigerated section of store)
Cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper
3 small corn tortillas (use corn!)
Light sour cream
Sharp white cheddar or monterey jack cheese, shredded
Fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and cracked pepper
Wrap the tortillas in paper towels and place in microwave for later.
In a small pot or saucepan, combine the undrained black beans and salsa over medium-low heat. You want the mixture to be a little saucy, not thick. Season with a teaspoon or so of both cumin and chili powder (taste it and adjust–you want to be able to taste both of these spices). Add a small pinch of cayenne pepper. Taste for salt and add if necessary. Bring to a simmer and cover while you cook the eggs.
Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat with either a tiny bit of oil or a small amount of vegan butter (e.g. Earth Balance). When skillet is hot, crack all three eggs into skillet, being careful not to break yolks. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and more chili powder. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until whites are completely opaque and set. Flip and cook another minute or so to desired doneness. Remove from heat.
Heat the tortillas in microwave for 15-20 seconds. To assemble one tortilla, place a small scoop of black beans on plate. Top with one tortilla, another small scoop of beans and one egg. Top with a few more beans and a tablespoon or so of cheese. Repeat for remaining tortillas/eggs. You will probably have leftover black beans in pot after all three tortillas are assembled.
Garnish with a small dollup of light sour cream and fresh chopped cilantro.
The first Monday after the holidays—arguably the hardest day all year. I moped around a bit yesterday, mourning the festivities and shiny days of family and good food. My instinct is to grab the next closest holiday and fixate on it like a beacon in the night. To ignore the days as they pass and look forward to that next special occasion. To this my mom would say, “Do not wish your life away.” And she’s right. Today is my life.
And you know what? Nothing tangible has changed. Only our perspective. Life is still the same—it’s just not carried in bright packages or lovely twinkling trees or cookies with sprinkles. I want to go outside and put my hands in the cold dirt and literally be IN today. Right in this moment. This is the one that matters. To fixate on a warm spring day or a future beach trip would be to forfeit all the beautiful moments in between. We can’t have that.
Wow, and it’s hard to eat in season right now as everything is resting beneath us. BUT you can still make responsible food choices. You don’t need bananas and mangos every day…that pineapple shipped from far away is not crucial to your happiness (if it is, then fine, eat it). Don’t try to survive on onions and canned tomatoes over the next few months, but think of things you can do. Start planning a garden patch for spring. Find a community garden to work with this summer…even if it’s just for a few weekends. Collect some cans from friends and co-workers for your local food bank. Pay attention to the source of your fresh food and try to choose ingredients that haven’t traveled the world to get to your plate. Look up the date of your farmers’ market opening day and capitalize it in red on your calendar. There are plenty of small things you can still do right now.
Bright things are behind us but the brightest day is today. Celebrate the occasion of now. This minute. It’s the only one that truly matters. Say kind things to people around you. They may have eaten their weight in Christmas cookies and need to hear how great they look in that sweater. Plan something fun for warmer months, but put it on the books and forget about it. Find beautiful things about each day that you’re granted the gift of waking into…
With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now. Ralph Waldo Emerson
P.S. I posted twice today simply because you are wonderful. Happy New Year.