Side Dishes

A Confession (and a Couscous Salad Recipe)

Lemony couscous salad, aka "Roll-Be-Gone"

I’ve fallen off the wagon a little bit lately.

I blame being happy and in love in the summertime. (Damn you, awesome new job and stable relationship!) The days are so long and beautiful — I just get caught up in all the fun I’m having, exploring new parts of town and all the exciting restaurants I’ve never tried before. Plus, there are so many potlucks! And you have to try everything, because to do otherwise is both foolish and rude.

Obviously.

There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a good meal, of course. And because I love food as much as I do, I can’t reasonably expect to live my life any other way. What I’ve been forgetting lately is that if you’re gonna do the crime (read: eat the churros), you gotta do the time (ie, run a mile per churro).

If you don’t remember this oh-so-important rule, you won’t love how you feel or look in the morning. That’s where I am right now. It is not a happy place.

I’ve resolved to get myself back on track by reestablishing some good habits — chiefly, exercising regularly and doing my own cooking. Notice the lack of new recipes lately? It’s partially because I’ve been stuffing my face at restaurants instead of making healthy meals at home. Both my waistband and wallet have officially had enough. I’m cracking the whip.

This lemony couscous salad with raisins and white beans was my first step in the right direction. The ingredients are very similar to this salad I made not too long ago, but the flavors are totally different. The lemon juice and red onion make the salad incredibly sharp and bright. Everything in this recipe is good for you — it’s a great blend of protein, healthy fat, and inexpensive ingredients. I think I’m off to a pretty good start. Keep reading for the recipe. Read more…

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Perfect for Potlucks! Cinnamon-Spiced Chickpea Salad

Cinnamon-spiced chickpea salad

There was a big potluck at my office this week. Now don’t get me wrong: I love potlucks. But I have to admit that they definitely give me a little anxiety. Sure, I’m a decent cook, but the stakes are raised when you’re making food for other people. Plus, I have a food blog! I can’t be making just any old thing! The dish needs to be both tasty AND interesting. I mulled over the options for days before I decided what to make: chickpea salad.

It was perfect — simple, no need to reheat, and a little unexpected. What’s the twist? The dressing. It features tons of cinnamon and cumin. The spices combine with the agave nectar for a warm, sweet flavor and aroma. The salad has great textural variety too: tender chickpeas, chewy raisins, and crunchy almonds.

I have a feeling this chickpea salad is going to become my go-to potluck dish this summer. Keep reading for the recipe. Read more…

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Coconut Couscous with Cilantro and Lime

Coconut couscous, nutty and bright

As I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, I recently rediscovered the wonders of couscous. I became a little obsessed with it actually — I researched all kinds of varieties to see what new things I could play with. I fixated on tri-color pearl (aka Israeli) couscous. It just looks so beautiful on a plate! It’s like the couscous is its own adornment. Unfortunately for me, they didn’t seem to have any Israeli couscous in my local grocery store. I suppose I could have gotten it at another shop, but frankly, I am too cheap and lazy to shop anyplace else. I took it as a sign and tried to put the couscous out of my mind.

But one day, several weeks after the onset of my obsession, it revealed itself to me: tri-color pearl couscous in my regular grocery store, for under 3.50 a pound. I combined some of my favorite flavors — coconut, cilantro, and citrus — to celebrate my find.

This coconut couscous is lightly nutty and bright, fragrant with cilantro, garlic, and lime. To keep the calories and fat low, I used an unsweetened blend of almond milk and coconut milk instead of pure coconut milk. It works beautifully in this dish. If you can’t find coconut-almond milk, feel free to use a blend of coconut milk and water instead.

The coconut couscous is a great side for just about anything. Try pairing it with marinated grilled flank steak, garlic shrimp, or skewered chicken and vegetables. Read more…

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Simple and Springy: Tuna Pasta Salad

Tuna pasta salad

You guys, I’m so excited. I totally saw the sun today. I haven’t worn my parka in over a week. Spring is finally, finally here. What does that mean? It’s almost potluck season. And what does THAT mean? It’s time to break out the pasta salad.

Even if you’re not potlucking it up, pasta salad is a great thing to make during warmer months, when good produce is fresh and plentiful. It’s a serious workhorse. I love to make a huge batch of pasta salad on Sunday and chip away at it throughout the week. It gets better and better the longer it sits in the fridge: tangier, zestier… pasta-ier? Ok, maybe not that last one. Still, a good pasta salad gets appreciably more delicious as time goes on.

This tuna pasta salad is a slight variation on my usual recipe. I was poking around in my pantry the other day, looking for inspiration, and I saw that I had a stack of canned tuna that was a foot high. BOOM. Protein source found.

The tuna works great in this dish — it plays nicely with the red onion and lemony dressing. To keep the tuna’s flavor from overpowering the rest of the ingredients, I added just one can and made sure to drain it well. The tuna adds just the right amount of salt and makes the pasta feel extra-filling.

Here’s how I put everything together. Read more…

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Spring Side: Roasted Baby Artichokes

Roasted baby artichokes, simple and elegant

Spring is officially here. Since today was still windy and cold enough for wool coats to be in order, I’m guessing no one mentioned this to Mother Nature. I’m hoping that I can summon warm weather with kitchen optimism. Case in point? These roasted baby artichokes.

Artichokes, like asparagus and sugar snap peas, are a sign of springtime. They require a little bit of work to trim, but the preparation is definitely time well-spent. Take some fresh baby artichokes, cut to them to their tender middles, and toss them with some olive oil and herbs. After a few minutes in the oven, it’ll hit you: that delicious, fruity aroma as the chokes caramelize on the pan.

These roasted baby artichokes are a beautiful side. I think they pair especially nicely with fish, like tilapia (my favorite budget fish) or sole. For an extra treat, you can shave a little parmesan or pecorino romano on top. Here’s how I put my roasted chokes together. Read more…

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