Yesterday, being Wednesday, was our weekly dinner date with friends, recently dubbed “WeHangsDay.” We alternate hosting, and it’s usually a chance for me to troll through all my new favorite blogs (I’ve hinted to John that this hobby thing he’s steered me into is becoming totally addictive) trying to find something new and interesting to cook.
I mean, we are all familiar with the food rut. Last year (and many prior to that) could be called my “pork tenderloin” phase, as it was my go-to meal for guests. Always. It’s difficult to mess up (someone else seasons it, the package has straightforward directions, etc etc) and goes with a lot of side dishes (my favorites were Israeli cous cous, quiche, and asparagus, but not all at the same time!).
I’m one of those cooks who finds the recipe first, and then makes a long list of what I need at the grocery store (because I don’t usually have an abundance of food in the fridge). I head out with determination, the post-it note clutched in my sweaty palm. Some time later I return home, laden with many bags that are filled with ingredients I needed, and some other stuff that just ‘looked good.’ Here’s where John comes in.
I’m not the best at ‘scavenger hunt’ cooking. I can’t just open up our cupboards and magically come up with a stupendous meal based on what we have. So usually, all that stuff that I brought home because it ‘looked good,’ gets made into a meal of John’s creation. He’s very good at ‘scavenger hunt’ cooking. For our first year together, that was our culinary balance. And I was constantly amazed at the meals that we could put together out of the food we already had.
Yesterday, however, we sensed a changing of the tides. Some of our neighbors (not those of the wiggly fish ~ different ones) gave us a lot of leftover short ribs that we’d shared with them for dinner on Tuesday. This lifted a huge weight from my shoulders of having to think of WeHangsDay dinner. I just had to make something to go with the falling-off-the-bone-tender ribs we were now in possession of. I immediately hopped online and went to one of my favorite sites, Iowa Girl Eats. I seemed to recall that she’d posted something I really wanted to try ~ a Black Bean, Quinoa & Citrus Salad, perfect for uber-hot days because the cooking elements totalled one.
I read through the directions. I didn’t have quinoa, but I did have Israeli cous cous. So … my salad would be a cous cous salad. John doesn’t like raw onion, so no worries that we didn’t have that. I nixed it. I clicked on Eat Live Run (apparently the origin of the salad made by Iowa Girl Eats), and her ingredients were different than the recipe I was reading. Ah ha! I could just use what I liked, put some other things in there as substitutes, and voila! Newer version of (frankly) genius salad.
1 box Israeli cous cous (plus a sliver butter & 1.5 cups water or chicken broth)
2 ears of sweet corn scraped right off the cob (no cooking necessary)
2 cups pink grapefruit segments, cut into cubes
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 ripe avocado, cubed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 cup shelled, cooked edamame beans
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup EVOO
Salt and Pepper
Minced fresh cilantro
Here’s what I did:
1. Melted a sliver of butter in a saucepan. Added cous cous and browned it a little.
2. Added 1 1/2 cups chicken broth to cous cous. Brought to boil. Dropped to low heat, put a lid on it, and let the cous cous absorb the broth (about 5 minutes). Then I took it off the heat, and put it aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, I was combining the corn, grapefruit, black beans, dried cranberries, avocado and edamame in a mixing bowl.
4. Separately, I whisked the lime juice into the EVOO, added the cilantro and mixed a little more, and then seasoned with salt & pepper to taste.
5. The piece de resistance ~ combining cooled cous cous, all that lovely fruit and produce goodness and then pouring on the lime-cilantro vinaigrette.
It was, in my humble opinion, a success. One, it tasted good! Two, I used a lot of stuff that we had in the house (changing of the cooking tides happening!) and three, it was a huge self-confidence boost to make something I’d never made before, and have everyone like it. So, thank you to the ladies who posted this before me.
(PS. John took the leftovers to work, which is a very good sign!)