Posted by: ThePseudotarian | January 25, 2011

An apology, and a wonderful grain salad

Dear food blog,

I haven’t given up on you, I promise! But when I said things were busy in the Pseudohousehold … I wasn’t lying! Matt and I weren’t expecting to find a house so quickly, but we did. We close on March 15 and couldn’t be more thrilled. You should be excited too, since it has a wonderful kitchen, and I’ll be much less poor and able to buy good food again to experiment and cook delicious things.

It has a breakfast nook! Matt and I can’t wait to spend our evenings here, cooking and catching up on our day. I love how the fridge has it’s own compartment, so It’s not sticking out in the way.

We’ll be switching to electric appliances (unfortunately), but I love the extra counter space and the warmth. I can’t wait to start cooking here! So, you see why I’ve been so busy and so distracted, food blog. However, come March 15 when I have a real pantry and not a bookshelf, and full size oven, stove and fridge, we’ll be doing a lot more cooking together.

In the meantime, I want to finally share the recipe I made over the holidays. Our family celebrations can be kind of large, and many people have specific dietary needs and preferences. Matt’s brother and sister-in-law are vegans, our diet is plant-based, though we’re okay with eggs and dairy, our moms doesn’t like anything remotely spicey and his dad is meat and potatoes, through and through, and also a diabetic. So, sometimes it can be difficult to figure out what to cook. This recipe … was perfect. I found it in the archives on The Kitchn and did a bit of tweaking to make it suit my winter needs (and tight budget).

It reignited my love of pearl couscous and asparagus, and I discovered the special place in my heart where goat cheese now lives – figuratively of course, because otherwise that would be scary. For our holiday meal, we served the goat cheese on the side, making this vegan friendly. For the sake of price, season, ease and my own personal taste, I did alter the original a bit. And unfortunately, there were no Meyer lemons to be found …

“Meyer” Lemon Grain Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheese

adapted from The Kitchn

12 oz Pearl Couscous
1 lb raw asparagus
Olive oil for roasting
1 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 medium-sized orange, zested and juiced
1 lemon, zested and juiced
3 oz soft goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
Salt and pepper
4 oz goat cheese

Cook the couscous according to package directions. Alternatively, if you buy in bulk, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add couscous and stir until water is absorbed, adding more as needed until it’s al dente and dry. Set aside in a large mixing bowl. Please note, you can also use a mix of grains: wheat berries, farrow and/or spelt in addition to the couscous. Cook all separately and mix together.

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces and place in a roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat and roast in a 400-degree oven until cooked, about ten minutes. Toss with the grain. Add to this mixture the toasted almonds and orange and lemon zest.

Whisk the orange and lemon juice with the oils, taste and adjust. This is the really imprecise part. I adjusted countless times. Be very careful adding in the walnut oil, as it’s very, very strong. Toss this mixture with the couscous, asparagus and almonds, and salt and pepper to taste.

I LOVE this salad, and so did everyone else. We served the goat cheese on the side, but in the times I’ve made it since, I’ve mixed it right in with the hot asparagus and toasted almonds. My only complaint about this dish, was keeping it warm! It tends to cool very quickly. Next time I take it to a potluck style dinner, I’ll bring it in a slow cooker and set it on low. Other than that, this dish is so light and refreshing! The pearl couscous (and DO make sure you use the pearl variety, also known as Israeli cousous) isn’t heavy and doesn’t steal the show. It more provides a vehicle for the beautiful citrus and walnut flavors to shine, leveled out with the wonderful, earthy asparagus. As an alternative, you can also briefly saute the asparagus until tender instead of roasting it, but I have a weak spot for roasty, earthy, creamy asparagus.

Like I said, vegans, veggies, omnivores and decided carnivores all loved this. In fact, I’m making it again this week to make sure I have something to bring to work for lunch. I’d love to add more veggies to this too. Maybe some fresh parsley? Kale or spinach? Also, I hope I can find some Meyer lemons this spring!

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