Today’s harvest: Zucchini, lettuce, basil, parsley, tomatoes, fresh herbs.
“There was this stupid game everybody had to play as soon as they entered the military,” said my dad with a smirk on his face. “It was called the juke-box.”
“The juke box?”
“Yes, the juke-box. The seniors would lock newcomers into a locker, and then slide in a coin or something, and order them to sing something. It was scary and amusing at the same time,” he said, clearly with the expression of someone lucky enough to be on the range of those who found it amusing.
“Where was this?”
“We were near Palermo, in Sicily. I remember the heat of that dry ground, the dust collecting around our boots, and the waves of the sea and the fishermen…the flavors, the smells. The moment I started appreciating raisins, and the almonds we ate by the handful…it was unique.”
We were sitting on a bench right in front of the beach, hearing the sound of the waves of a sea that was much more up north spreading in the night. We breathed deeply the saline, fresh breeze, as the sun let go of its last specks of an beautifully orange dusk.
“I still remember the pranks we pulled to some of the kids…” he continued.
“What did you do?”
“One time,” He started chuckling. “We collected some leaves of a very common plant that grew right outside the building. We burned all of them, and collected the dust into a jar. It was a very fine powder, and that specific kind of bush was just so nasty…” he laughed out loud. “One time we just emptied the jar into a room full of people during a conference and ran. We could hear them sneeze like crazy from meters away!”
“Didn’t you guys get caught?”
“Yes we did! They kicked our ass so hard. But, thinking back on it, it was worth it. Damn, was it worth it…”
He stared into the distance.
“You know, I admire you,” he told me. “I was always so bad at choosing or taking risks. I should start eating a little healthier…You know, that stuff you cooked today? What was it?”
“Ah, the couscous salad? You know, I made it thinking of Sicily. You’d like it.”
“That. Make it for me next time, ok?”
He got up, and stared into the distance again. He smiled.
“Damn…was it worth it.”
I wanted to share this little something because, even though I have never been to Sicily, my dad always talks about it in a way that makes you feel like you’re there. He’s great at story telling.
So this is a healthy salad for that lazy butt that my dad is – though he still looks nice and healthy in spite of all the snacking he does.
SIDE NOTE N. 1 = This post is probably lacking some pictures, but I really wanted to post. An update might follow!
SIDE NOTE N. 2 = I have a very special someone coming to visit me this weekend!!!!!!!! I am on the moon with excitement. (specifically, the Griffith observatory person from this post, who also got a birthday cake recently.) I’ll be completely MIA during the weekend but I have been photoshooting a lot so I am excited to prepare another post before then – specifically about this book and this book (which are both amazing and you should both check out!)
SIDE NOTE N. 3 = Congrats to Molly who got engaged! YAY!
Now, meet one of my favorite dinners. This salad is so good! And customizable. It is also a good vegan one pot meal, especially if you add the almonds – so you’d have protein from a grain, legumes and nuts.
Grilling vegetables is the ultimate summer thing to do aside stuffing your face with watermelon! Another reason why I like this salad so much. Here t is:
- ½ cup whole grain couscous
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 2 long medium eggplants
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 yellow or white medium onion
- 5-6 Dried tomatoes preserved in olive oil
- 6-7 basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- (extra) a handful of chopped almonds and raisins
- lemon juice, to taste
- For the dressing:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon harissa (possibly powdered)
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- a big pinches of salt
- To top:
- Toasted sesame seeds
- The above spice mix, or, if not feeling adventurous with spices, saffron does a great job here)
- Lemon juice, to taste.
- Extras: A poached egg, avocado, olives, garlic.
- COOK THE COUSCOUS AND CHICKPEAS: For this recipe, you can use canned chickpeas to make things quicker. Make sure you rinse and drain them well. If using fresh, soak them overnight, then boil them until tender, about an hour. If cooking your own, add a couple cloves of garlic, a small rosemary sprig and a bay leaf t the cooking water to kick your chickpeas up a notch.
- To cook the couscous, bring an amount of water that is equal to that of the couscous to a boil. When it boils, add the couscous, stir, turn the heat off and cover. Let it sit for 15 minutes. If using regular couscous it will take less time - always check package instructions if provided.
- GRILL THE VEGETABLES: Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
- Cut the eggplant, onion and zucchini into ¼ inch slices lengthwise. Heat up a grill until very hot. While it heats, dump the onion rings into the boiling water and cook for 3 to 5 minutes to soften it up. Once the grill is ready, grill your veggie slices and onion rings. Since we sliced them so thin, it will not take longer than one minutes per side, so keep a close eye on them as they burn easily. Add them to a bowl as they cook.
- once all the vegetables are ready, finely chop up the parsley and basil and add them to the bowl, then dress everything with a good pinch of salt, the olive oil and a small splash of vinegar. Add a clove of minced garlic if you like it.
- MAKE THE SPICE MIX: To make the dressing, just mix all the ingredients together and stir well. Some toasted and ground sesame seeds make for a nice addition. Also, finely chop the dried tomatoes and prepare the raisins and almonds, of using.
- ASSEMBLE: To assemble, toss the couscous and chickpeas with the veggies and the dressing, salt and pepper if you like. Top with the grilled vegetables, and finish off with some extra spice mix, an extra torn basil leaf and a squeeze of lemon. Some sliced avocado or a poached egg make a nice addition.
- MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: Just substitute the couscous with either millet or quinoa. I find both to be similar in texture to couscous, with millet being the closest.