Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Transition to Fall Couscous

Sorry to drop the F-bomb on you like that. I'm not here to tell you how much I like Fall and that horrible, unmentionable season that follows, I'm only here to tell you about a lovely little couscous dish I made that sort-of reminded me of Fall. It's around the corner, but let's not talk about that part. Ok? Just couscous, that's all.

My usual dishes consist of no more than five ingredients. That's because I'm broke, honestly. When considering my meals, it's like, hmmm, 'Should I amp up this dish by sauteing this onion with the rice and adding spinach at the end?' I usually opt to leave it out and save it for the next nights dinner. Things are less complicated in my kitchen. Don't go taking pity on me though, I eat well and often and spending money on good food is just as important as paying my rent. It's mainly about stretching here- which has resulted in creating some spectacular dishes I would have otherwise overdone. That being said, I did not hold back a bit with this dish. Avocado? Yes! Tomato, of course. Pickled peppers? Olives? It's all in the mix and boy did it feel luxurious!

The reason this dish reminds me of Fall is because of the sauteed garlic and celery. Not very distinctive, I know, but something about the smell of it with a bit of chili and pepper reminded me of stuffing, which reminded me of Thanksgiving. And the color and texture of the couscous was very much like the bread part in stuffing. And with the addition of vegetable broth, well, it was spot on. Almost got me excited about the holidays. Almost.

You're skimming this post wondering when I'm going to bring up the fact there are blackberries in the above picture, right?

So yes, I added blackberries to my Fall-ish couscous dish which makes no sense at all. Or does it? When reading Mark Bittman's blog the other day, he talked about the weirdest pizza he had ever made which included blackberries in place on tomatoes and some other lovely garden vegetables all topped with blue cheese. Mark Bittman can do no wrong in my mind. He's my go-to cook. Some people refer to the bible (Mastering the Art of French Cooking), others refer to the Joy of Cooking. I refer to Mark. Plus, he's kinda sexy. No? After reading the post I marched right over the grocery store and purchased blackberries then sat and waited to do something extremely strange/awesome with them.

My time came when I was preparing the couscous. It was not at all pre-meditated which is what I was going for in using the blackberries. Everything was just coming together spur of the moment and at the last moment, with visions of Mark dancing through my head, I immediately knew what to do.

The couple of people who tried this dish were very hesitant at first. My roommate, who was making her own lunch, kept side-eyeing the bowl and not with a hungry side eye. More of a, 'What the fuck' side eye. She tried it to be polite when I offered her some and then sheepishly said she loved the paring of sweet and spicy together and could she have some more please? Then Jenne (see previous post) came over exclaiming she was hungry and did I have anything to snack on? You bet! I could see her trying to get out of it once presented. 'That's ok, I'll just drink this beer for lunch'. I almost had to beg her to take a bite. Then ten fork fulls later she was a believer. It's just the blackberries that puts people off. So, if you make this dish you're going to have to be on top of your convincing game. Don't take no for an answer and bring extras because it will disappear in an instant.

Serves 4-6

2 T olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 chili pepper- diced
1 1/2 C couscous
3 C water
1 T instant vegetable stock or 1 cube of stock. alternatively, use liquid stock in place of water.
1 large tomato- de-seeded and diced
1/2 large cucumber- de-skinned and chopped (seeds are ok)
1 ripe avocado- chopped into bite-size sections
10-12 green olives- cut in half
*6 pickled chili peppers- cut into thirds
10-12 fresh blackberries
salt and pepper for seasoning

- heat oil over medium heat in sauce pan and saute the garlic and pepper for about 3 minutes

-add the celery and continue to cook for about 5-7 more minutes

-add the couscous and toast until fragrant. about 3-4 minutes

-add water and cook the couscous according to package directions

-meanwhile, chop the vegetables

-once the couscous is cooked, fluff with a fork, put into a serving bowl and add the rest of the prepared ingredients. continue to use your fork for mixing and do it lightly and quickly. couscous mashes easily and i would hate for you to end up with mashed blackberry weirdness!

*pickled chili peppers are amazing! try to find them if you can. usually with the olives and capers and such in the grocery. if you can't find them, red chili flakes would make a nice substitution. perhaps about 2 teaspoons.

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