I have been feeling sort of uninspired these last couple of weeks. I am hoping that this is due to the fact that we've been getting adjusted to the new Fall routine, and that my husband has been traveling (this time it's Korea). When he's away, I don't cook much. I use this as a time to indulge the girls' food requests (which usually aren't anything I want to eat), clean out the pantry, and occasionally I make something that I know he won't like. I also tend to sort of self-medicate when he's gone, by online shopping and eating extra dessert, but I decline to comment further on those matters. This week I hit the farmer's market on Saturday and could barely control myself. It is peak season up yonder here in MN, and every single vegetable is beautiful. I have been waiting for red/yellow bell peppers for weeks, and finally they are ready. The tomatoes come in every shade and shape and are lovely and tiny in the grape and cherry variety. It's the perfect mix of summer and fall, as both berries and apples/grapes are waiting for good homes and hungry tummies to snatch them up. I tried to keep in mind that I was essentially solo for vegetable-eating purposes (because my kids hate them), but still, I came home with more than one woman could reasonably consume (because we are leaving lots of room for extra dessert, remember?) in one week. I can't help it. I love farmers and the farmer's market is my happy place. Plus we are teetering close to the edge of nice days, where it can fall off into an abyss of freezing weather forever without any warning and kill all this good stuff. Sigh. I had to do something with some of this bounty, so I do what I often do in this situation--make a grain-based salad. I ended up making this Israeli couscous creation one morning while my children watched Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. That's all the time it took. I followed no recipe, just added things based on what I had, and dressed it simply with what I know always works (lemon, olive oil, and salt/pepper). Pick any grain you like....couscous, quinoa, barley, farro, whatever. Add beans, or leftover grilled chicken, or shrimp, or whatever. Add more vegetables, maybe dried fruit, or how about some nuts? Do what moves you, and you will have a lovely little lunch that will feed you fast for three days straight as you simultaneously do all the other things you try to do while you eat (unload groceries, do dishes, feed children, do the laundry). I'm looking out for you nutritionally, fellow moms. Stop eating off your kid's plate in a pinch. Pick a grain, and go with it.
Greek-Inspired Israeli Couscous Salad
- 1 c. dry Israeli couscous (the texture of this stuff is really awesome. Try it if you haven't)
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (I had some lovely rainbow tomatoes)
- 1 large red or yellow bell pepper
- 1 large cucumber
- 1/2 c. feta cheese
- juice of one lemon
- a few tablespoons of good olive oil (have a flavored one? Splash it in here)
- all-purpose Greek seasoning (yes, I do love the one from Penzeys)
Cook the couscous according to package directions (I just used a whole box from Trader Joes, which actually was 1 1/3 c. dried, if you want to be picky. You saute it for a few minutes to toast it, add water, boil, cover and walk away for 10 minutes). Fluff your grain with a fork, transfer to a bowl, and cool slightly while you chop. You can also do this far ahead and stick it in the fridge--or better yet--use something leftover from your fridge! Got leftover brown rice? Or quinoa? Use it now. Chop all your veggies, and toss into the bowl. Add your cheese, drizzle some oil, and squeeze that lemon over the top. Toss well and liberally season as you like. Add more lemon juice and olive oil if needed. I hope I do not need to remind you that you should only use juice that comes out of a real lemon. Do we really need to have that discussion again? I didn't think so. If you have fresh herbs, they would be lovely here....basil, dill, parsley, oregano, maybe cilantro. Are you starting to see that you can really have some fun here? The grain is your blank canvas and you are the artist. Create.