Friday, February 17, 2006

From Doubtful to Delicious

Well, my dubious lunch turned out to be a fairly tasty meal after all. I had packed lunch and dinner for today yesterday night, and although both dishes seemed like a good idea at the time (coucscous with apricots and yogourt, and couscous with eggplant), when I looked at the couscous this morning it seemed unbearably bland and dreary and I realized that the eggplant that my wonderful aunt and uncle had made was actually not fully cooked (the onion and garlic were still that slightly opaque colour of white that indicates rawness and the eggplant was spongy and white, also a sign of rawness--quite, quite indigestible). It was clear that I had nothing to enjoy in either of my two meals today. . .

So, I bought a roasted vegetable sandwich for breakfast-lunch*--a ciabatta bun filled with a few rounds of zucchini, some strips of red pepper, and a few branches of cauliflower, bound together by some mozzarella cheese, and grilled. It had potential, but I would have preferred a little more moisture and flavour in the sandwich (Tapenade? Pesto? Even mustard would have been good). I thought I would save the other two meals for later, when I would be too hungry to be particular about taste and presentation . . .

Turn ahead now a few hours, to the point where I have eaten up the dubious lunch for my dinner. I must say that for a spontaneously-thrown-together dish it was very good. All I didlast night was to measure out some instant couscous into a bowl, put in some diced dried Turkish apricots, add a good pinch of salt, a squiggle of honey, and hot water that equaled a little more than the volume of couscous (i.e. 1/3 cup and say, 2 tablespoons). After a sprinkle of cinnamon, this dish was put into the fridge until this morning when I doubtfully spooned some plain yogourt over it and hurried off. I left it for most of the day in the refrigerator, so most of the liquid in the yogourt had been absorbed by the couscous and apricots by the time I came to eat it, the dish presenting itself as a bowl of slightly compressed couscous and apricots with yogourt that was akin to mascarpone cheese in texture. To my surprise, the first experimental bite proved that the combination was tasty: gently granular couscous blended with moist, slightly tart yet sweet apricots, and thick, tangy yogourt with the faintest hint of cinnamon behind it all. Topped with some crumbled walnuts I had stashed in the refrigerator, the couscous was even better--the crunchy texture and nutty flavour melded so nicely with everything else.

And here I conclude with the ways in which I think the couscous could be improved:
  • Infuse a little water with cinnamon and cardomom (either sprinkle the ground spices over some hot water [if you are rushed] or bring a small pot of water to the boil with the spices in it.
  • Put the diced dried apricots into the hot water first so that they do not compete with the couscous for liquid. It would be even better to put the apricots into the water that you infuse with the whole spices.
  • Try other dried fruit and nut combinations: figs, dried cherries, pistachios, almonds. . .
I suspect that this dish would have been even more delicious if I had eaten it freshly made: hot couscous and apricots, cool yogourt flowing around the pasta and fruit, and chopped nuts sprinkled over top so that they remain crunchy. Of course, even straight from the refrigerator this recipe tastes good, making it a worthy candidate for a packed meal.

* In other words, I missed breakfast and ate an early lunch, but because this was unintentional, I do not call it "brunch" (which is a fraught word in the culinary world anyway).


Blogger Fitz said...

Natalie, this "dubious" lunch sounds delicious to me - it seems like a very refreshing summer-y meal.

I agree about putting the dried fruit in hot water ahead of time - I do the same thing for raisins when I am making scones or applesauce cake (with scones, I put the raisins in hot tea) - and I find it makes for moister baked goods.

10:02 p.m.  

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