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.

Orange Moroccan Couscous: Secret Recipe Club

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A little break from holiday food for this month’s Improv Challenge.  Because we all need to fuel ourselves while we prep those turkeys and shop for everyone’s gifts.

We have all gotten those life lessons from our moms, the ones that we have heard multiple times and replied to with “Yesssss mommmmm” with a groan. One of my mom’s personal favorite stories has the moral not to judge how clothes on the hanger look before trying them on. “Just try the dress on. It could look completely different on!”. I have heard a tale of an ugly bridesmaid dress on the hanger that magically transformed into a gorgeous gown in the dressing room many times.

My life lesson for you all is that you shouldn’t judge a dish before you eat it. Recently I had a surplus of oranges in my fridge that needed to be eaten. I enjoyed eating them plain as a snack, but it was getting a little old. Luckily this month’s Improv Challenge was to make a dish using oranges and cardamon.  I saw this dish while procrastinating doing my work and thought “Okay, I guess I will make this just to use up some oranges”. I wasn’t very excited, but I was oh so wrong.

I loved this dish and have eaten it at least five times in the past two weeks. I am considering buying a another huge bag of oranges just to be able to make this more. This is just the right combination of warm spices, juicy oranges, sweet currants, and yummy chickpeas. This is a great side dish for pork chops or chicken, or it is great as a main dish if you just eat a big bowl of it.

So, this is for you mom: don’t judge how a recipe looks until you’ve tried the dish. You’ll never know what it tastes like until you eat it.

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ORANGE MOROCCAN COUSCOUS
Adapted from A Farm Girl Dabbles

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon saffron
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chickpeas
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
1 1/2 cups dried couscous
4 clementines, torn into slices
Fresh mint, optional
Toasted almonds, for topping

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Stir together cumin, cloves, cardamon, cinnamon, and saffron. Toast in pan until fragrant 1-3 minutes (be careful not to burn). Add oil, onion, and garlic. Cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

Stir in raisins, salt, chickpeas, and orange zest. Stir in couscous and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover pan with lid and let cook until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Mix in clementine slices, almonds, and mint.

Serves 3-4.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting!  Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

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.