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Couscous Add-In

IMG_2851Some days are so sweltering that all you want to do is be in contact with cold or wet things. It hadn’t started off so bad; we met our friends at the farmer’s market, caught up with several other friends there, too (efficient!), then took the dogs for a hike to the river. Even Remy, Miss “Oh! I don’t like to get my fur wet!” ventured in up to her belly, as did the rest of us. Well, nearly.

IMG_8559By the time we reached Guido’s, I pronounced, “Couscous. Israeli couscous.” Bertrand poured a healthy dose for two into a plastic bag while I grabbed a carton of yellow tomatoes. “We need dill?” he asked. “Let’s conserve,” I replied. “We have basil, we have oregano. We can improvise.”

The couscous was supposed to be for dinner, but when we got home around 2:30, I decided to make it then. I’d take a few bites, then let the herbs seep into the olive oil, lubricate the tomatoes, and all that. As I began chopping the tomatoes and placing them in a yellow ware bowl, I stopped after a few. Yellow tomatoes against brownish ceramic? Not a pretty shot. So I scooped them into a cloudy off-white bowl. Better, but… These blog post photos were beginning to ruin the simple joy of creating. Sigh. Leaving what had been chopped in cloudy bowl, I pulled out a straight-up white pasta bowl and placed the rest in that one. Two bowls. There is a reason for this minutia. Just wait for it–even if Bertrand didn’t…IMG_8564

IMG_8569

After I boiled and strained the couscous, a pint of fresh blueberries resting on the counter nearby caught my eye. Hmm…I looked over my shoulder to be sure that Bertrand had headed upstairs and the coast was clear.

I plopped a few blueberries into one of the bowls. “Just for fun,” I heard myself say out loud. I stirred them in to make sure they were coated in olive oil, then took a bite. Interesting…But wait. What about those pine nuts? You know how they go stale quickly; wouldn’t want to waste them…

A small cast iron skillet was resting on the stove, having been used for Bertrand’s shishito peppers lunch. I reheated the shiny veil of leftover olive oil, then poured in the nuts. IMG_8567

Remy and I then headed out to the herb garden where I snipped off about a half dozen basil leaves. As an after thought, I pulled off a branch of speckled mint leaves, then pinched a few oregano leaves, too.

The sage plants waited patiently for me to notice them. Holy smokes. We have two of the the most perfect sage plants. One started as a meager little thing that has blown up into branch upon branch of long, pristine leaves.The other is squatter, but made of wide oval leaves that are a sight to behold (behold, below, on the right).

 

I left the sage alone; sage and basil are like Burton and Taylor. Both are magical, but you don’t necessarily want them in the same dish. Note to self: next menu? Wide sage and pasta or some sort.

The no brainer basil went in the bowls first, nestling up to the tomatoes and settling in with the lubricated couscous. I then sprinkled the mint and oregano into the other blueberry bowl. In case this crazy concoction didn’t work, we’d still have the safer, traditional dish. But the complicated concoction worked, too. Fuck it, I thought to myself as I stirred both bowls into a larger one (after first getting the money shot, of course). I downed a few bites of my masterpiece, then set it in the fridge and impatiently waited for dinner.

IMG_8566“Let’s eat early,” I suggested to Bertrand two hours later when found me reading upstairs in the guest room. I wasn’t being unreasonable; it was after six. I poured a fresh tablespoon of olive oil into the mixture, while Bertrand grabbed a chunk of parmesan from the fridge and grated a healthy amount in. We scooped it out into two new small bowls then headed out to the porch.

“Blueberries, honey?” my husband observed one in his fork, then slowly looked over at me. “I’m proud of you.d”

Next time, I’ll push it with the sage.

Couscous with cherry tomatoes and blueberries

  • 2 cups of Israeli couscous
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 4 T olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped
  • 6 mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 4 leaves of fresh oregano
  • 2 T freshly grated parmesan, optional

Bring 4 cups of water to boil, then pour in couscous and leave in for five minutes. Test it for softness; it might need an extra minute or two. Drain, then pour into bowl, immediately coating with 3 T of olive oil. Stir well. Add tomatoes, blueberries, and herbs. Heat the remaining olive oil in small skillet on medium. When oil is hot, add pine nuts. Allow to cook to light brownness, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan and add to couscous mix, along with parmesan. Stir well and serve.

 

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Jane was executive beauty director at W Magazine for 16 years. When she is not writing beauty articles, she's likely either hiking with her husband and dog, Remy, or in her kitchen, frauding (new verb) her way around a fancy recipe, a home decoration or a highbrow dinner party conversation of which she knows nothing about. In other words, she nods a lot and googles a lot later.

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