Cooking gives me a chance to expand my creativity and sense of taste. For someone who gets easily bored with food, learning and trying many combinations of ingredients, spices, and herbs is important. Recently I tried to expand my salad creativity. Though preparing salad isn’t cooking, finding a good balance and combination of color, taste, and texture matters as much as it is in cooking.
One day I had been in the mood for a hearty salad. I had couscous, garbanzo beans, grape tomatoes, baby arugula, and artichoke hearts. For the vinaigrette, I wanted something lemony and tangy but with a kick. I thought of my good friend Deniz while making this salad. Many moons ago, she taught me that couscous and garbanzo beans (and other fresh veggies too) made such a good combo.
I did this version of mine in no time at all. The result was this substantial and nourishing salad that worked well as a side dish to my grilled halibut or sea scallops (which I also served with my roasted butternut squash with Gouda and pine nuts).
Here’s how I make the salad:
- Bring ½ cup of chicken stock to a boil
- Turn off the heat and pour ½ cup of couscous, stir, cover, and let it sit for a minute. Once the couscous absorbs all of the liquid it swells up and becomes cooked and tender.
- In a salad bowl mix the cooked couscous, a can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed), a handful of grape tomatoes (halved), a cup of baby arugula, and a few marinated artichoke hearts.
- In a smaller bowl whisk ¼ cup of olive oil, salt, black pepper, a teaspoon of minced garlic, chili powder, lemon juice (from one lemon). Add a tablespoon of Sriracha hot chili sauce or a teaspoon of Tabasco hot sauce for an extra punch.
- Drizzle the vinaigrette on the salad and mix
- Serve 2-3 people
Photo by FoeNyx
This summer, I have been so lucky to be receiving plenty of organic tomatoes and basil supply from my good friend’s vegetable garden. (Thanks again, Leena!) I have turned the basil into delicious pesto sauce and the tomatoes into salad mixed with cucumbers. Last week, I got my biggest supply yet! Tons of tomatoes and basil! So I figured out more ways to enjoy these great summer produce.
For breakfast this weekend, aside from the usual toast with strawberry preserve, I sliced the tomatoes into smaller chunks and sprinkle a little bit of sugar on top of them. My mom used to prepare tomatoes that way when I was little. She’d add crushed ice cubes to it too. Delicious summer treat! Then I cut up some Parmesan cheese into bite size and voila…great breakfast in no time!
I also made a hearty pasta sauce using those fresh tomatoes and basil. When I told another friend about it, she asked for the recipe. So, I thought I’d share with all of you.
My Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce with Ground Beef
- Heat up a medium pot
- Add 1 table-spoon of extra virgin olive oil
- Cut 6-8 fresh tomatoes into big chunks and add into the pot (tomatoes will dissolve into red tomato juice)
- Let it bubble for a half hour till most of the juice evaporate and the tomatoes turn into a thin sauce
-A handful of fresh basil leaves
-3-4 cloves of garlic
-½ – Large onion
- Add the blended goodness above to the simmering tomato sauce
- Add salt, pepper, and …of course…chili powder!
- Add a small can of tomato paste IF you want a thicker sauce
For the ground beef:
- Heat up a medium pan
- Add ½ a spoon of extra virgin olive oil
- Brown the ground beef (I guess you can also try ground turkey. I have never done it but I think it will also be delicious) and throw away the fat
- Add 2-3 chopped clove of garlic
- Add a dash of ginger powder (optional—I add ginger powder to lessen the meaty beef aroma)
Add cooked ground beef to the tomato sauce pot and stir. Serve with spaghetti or other favorite pastas. Enjoy!