Lemon Couscous with Avocado, Currants, and Almonds

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Earlier this semester I had a food challenge to meet: I needed a quiet dinner food.

Once a week I have a night class that is during and far past dinner, and the professor’s one request is that we bring in quiet food as to not disturb our classmates as we ate.  The first few classes I brought in salads, figuring there would be a little crunch, but I had cut my food into small pieces and used soft toppings- and my lettuce was often old and limp so quieter than it could have been.

Well, salad was deemed a little bit too loud, so I went back to the drawing board.  I sat down and took a moment to ponder: “what foods are quiet foods?”.  After some deep reflection, it came to me: avocado. Avocado: the ultimate quiet, delicious, and filling food.  Thus, this salad was born out of a desperation for solitude and has been eaten once a week during class ever since.

Although I often leave the almonds off because of the crunch factor.

LEMON COUSCOUS WITH AVOCADO, CURRANTS, AND ALMONDS
Adapted from Erin’s Food Files

INGREDIENTS

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup currants
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup dried couscous
1 teaspoon aloppa pepper (or cumin as alternative spice)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 small avocados, diced
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium to medium low heat until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak currants in the water. Pour currants and water with onions and cook until liquid is evaporated. Set onion mixture aside.

Cook couscous according instructions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in onion mixture, aloppa pepper, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cook for an additional 1-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in avocado (salt avocado if needed).

Serves 3-4.

Watermelon, Avocado, and Feta Salad

7-23 Watermelon, Avocado, Feta Salad 2

TGIF for real today.

For the past few months, I have only really had to worry about classes, and my summer courses have not been so bad.  And really, right now I am probably the least busy I will be within the next 4-5 years.  Help. But having 4 hours straight of classes is killing me.  And it’s only 3 days a week. So, Friday, you are most welcome, my friend.

Summer is not sitting in class.  Summer is lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and eating your weight in watermelon.  Summer is staying up too late doing nothing in particular.  Summer is eating at least one s’more.  Summer is taking the time to read lots of good books.  Summer is hitting up lots of happy hours to get as much free food as possible (I have gotten a few completely free dinners with this).  Summer is spending time outside, whether at the park, by the pool, or beach.

Well, since all sunscreen gives me a full body rash for 3 days after using (I am mess, yes), so some of my summer plans may need to be adapted a little bit.  I should probably invest in one of those big floppy hats I will have to stick to all the other summer activities.  I have been doing lots of reading, and  I have done my part to eat lots of good summer food.  This watermelon, avocado, and feta salad was like summer on a plate. Salty, sweet, and juicy- this salad is awesome.

Please do yourself a favor and put all work aside this weekend (at least for a little while) and have some great summer fun.  Then you can re-fuel with this salad to be ready to get back to the grind next week (Ugh).

7-21 Watermelon, Avocado, Feta Salad

WATERMELON, AVOCADO, AND FETA SALAD
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

For the Poppy Seed Vinagraiite:
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

For the Salad:
6 cups lettuce
1-2 small avocados, sliced
3/4-1 cup chopped watermelon
1-2 cucumber, chopped
1/3 cup crumbled feta
Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

For the Poppy Seed Vinaigrette:

Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and poppy seeds.  Set aside.

For the Salad:

In a large bowl combine lettuce, avocados, watermelon, and cucumber.  Season with salt and pepper.  Toss with vinaigrette.  Sprinkle feta on top.

Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side dish.

Buffalo Cauliflower Couscous Salad

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Quinoa, we need to talk.

It’s not you, it’s me.  I really need to focus on me right now.  We’ll still be friends, right?

Well, I think quinoa is okay, right?  They can go rebound with a jar of marinara sauce.

As you are reading this, I am probably sitting in car, making the long trek back home to reality.  Boo.  Since I wrote out a summer to-do list a few weeks ago, I can now cross a few off my list.  I celebrated Half-Christmas with some friends (what- you enjoy waiting 12 months to celebrate holidays?), I have been reading like a madwoman (I literally have 8 books sitting on my desk waiting to be read), I have worn a few more dresses, and now I am returning back from a semi-spontaneous road trip (at least spontaneous for me).  I also have taken to liberal parenthesis use but that wasn’t on my list.

My final summer check off is making quinoa.  I have made it twice, and both times were much more successful than my first attempt.  Now, this recipe has no quinoa in it.  I just don’t know if I like quinoa that much.  First, although it tastes better, I am not 100% I am cooking it completely correctly since I have never eaten it before.  Second, it’s just blah- I haven’t tasted the nutttiness or chewiness I heard so much about.

So basically, I need someone to make me an amazing quinoa dish.  Feeding it to me spoonful by spoonful is completely optional.

Until then, I will be sticking with grains I know how to cook and know I love.  This couscous salad takes all the classic buffalo wing toppings and puts it in a nice combined dish.  Now, I eat semi-vegetarian (AKA am too lazy and/or cheap to get meat most of the time), so I make buffalo cauliflower instead of chicken.  And it was wonderful.  But for people who actually have meat on hand, chicken would work wonderfully here.

If anyone makes this dish with quinoa, please send me pictures, so I can methodically compare how your quinoa looks to how mine looked.

Quinoa, you’re too good for me.  I really like you as a person, I am just not in that place in my life yet.

(For the record, this is hard on me too).

BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER COUSCOUS SALAD
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cup dried couscous
1 1/2 cup vegetable/chicken broth
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 ounces blue cheese
3 tablespoons buffalo sauce (to taste)
1-2 tablespoons butter
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, sliced
4 carrot, julienned
2-3 avocados, sliced

DIRECTIONS

Bring vegetable/chicken stock to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add couscous.  Cover and remove from heat.  Let sit for 5-7 minutes, until broth is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork.  Set aside.

In a small saucepan, whisk together 1/4 cup flour and a 1/4 cup milk.  Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in remaining milk.  Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in blue cheese, until melted.  Keep warm.

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Melt butter and add cauliflower (in batched if needed).  Cook until browned on the outside and tender, 3-5 minutes.  Stir in buffalo sauce, red onion, and carrots.  Cook for 2-3 minutes.  Stir in couscous.  Transfer to a plates.  Top salad with blue cheese sauce and avocados.

Serves 4.

Southwestern Barley Salad

Can you believe it’s August already?  I know everyone always says that about every month (insert some profound statement about the passage of time and human existence here), but for I promise it’s really true this time! I really can’t believe August is here.  August is going to be a huge month of change for me.  A few posts ago I mentioned that I have worked my last day at a urology practice. Why?  Because in about two weeks I am making my first big move of my adult life and starting a new chapter in my life.This fall semester I will start a PhD counseling psychology program in Lubbock, Texas.  For the next five to seven years it will be my new home as I learn how to be a psychologist, as both a researcher and therapist.  I won’t lie: I’m a little nervous.  Pretty nervous.  Actually, really nervous.  A combination of nervous and excited (depending on when you ask me I lean one way or the other).  It’ll be my first time I actually really and truly live away from my parents and my only home, and I am starting my career.  All this sounds a lot more adult than I feel.

All this change has led to lots of reflection about my life and what I want it to be.  All these life musings have also led me to think about my identity as a cook/kitchen frequenter and my blog.  What kind of food blog am I, and what is my “POV” on food?  Even in the past two years and fumbling around the kitchen and past year(!) of posting on this blog, I have already changed and learned so much.  After some thought, here is my sum up of my food world: healthy, affordable, seasonal (most of the time), and fun.  I like making things completely from scratch and easy, no fuss dishes.  I love trying new foods and revisiting classics.

Starting this new PhD program will probably mean posting will become a little more intermittent, but cooking and blogging have become some a big part of my life that I can’t imagine not doing it.  I plan on making myself keep it all up, but I may not be able to experiment as much as I have been able to these past months.   After all, I am about to become a home cook and a grad student with little time, even less money, and will always be on the go.

Okay, enough rambling: on to this southwestern barley salad.  This is very indicative of my type of food.  With this dish I tried barley for the first time and fell in love.  Barley, a cheap but filling grain that adds a chewy and nutty flavor, is combined with fresh summer produce and tossed in a light vinaigrette.  As I eat mostly meatless now, this is a perfect dinner for me, but  it would also be fantasic as a side with something from your barbeque for you carnivores.  Also, I am not the world’s biggest fan of tomatoes or avocados (I know, for shame), but I love this.

 

SOUTHWESTERN BARLEY SALAD
From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS
For the Vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lime zest
Pinch of salt
For the Salad:
2 1/2 cups water
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup dried pearled barley
2 tablespoon butter, divided

1 red onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 ears of corn
2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 small avocados, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro, chopped
DIRECTIONS
For the Vinaigrette:
In a large serving bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, honey, and lime zest.  Whisk together.  Season with salt to taste if needed and set aside.
For the Salad:
In a large saucepan combine water, bouillion, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and add pearled barley.  Cook according to package instructions (30-45 minutes typically).  Remove from heat and set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon butter.  Add onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook until onion is tender, 7-9 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add corn and the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.  Cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add cherry tomatoes, smoked paprika and cumin.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, until tomatoes are slightly broken down.  Season with salt and pepper.
Whisk vinaigrette.  Transfer salad into bowl with vinaigrette.  Add avocado and toss to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Garnish with cilantro, if desired.
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side dish.