It is finally spring and I’m researching which fruits and vegetables are in season and planning my recipes. This is a far cry from how I used to eat, when I cared about fruit but certainly not vegetables. I could handle Greek salad, potato salad, and loved Caesar salad. But that was the extent of my repertoire and adventures with edible herbaceous plants–until I started this blog.
If you scroll through my recipe index, you still won’t find a lot of recipes for vegetables or salads, but I do eat them. Sometimes quite a lot. Although many of my recipes would not be featured in Cooking Light magazine any time soon, I do think I eat a lot better now than I did before I started blogging, when I often ate cereal for dinner.
My friend Jake says most people are delusional about how healthy they eat. Jake has a bit of a paunch despite the fact that he goes to the gym every day and has been on the South Beach diet since 2003. The last time I was in Jake’s car I found a crumbled up bag of Doritos under the passenger seat.
I’m not trying to pick on Jake, because I think his point is valid. I used to think I ate healthy–until I actually started eating healthy. During my first year of blogging, I regularly broke out in hives on my face and suffered from other distressing ailments that made me think I had food allergies. My doctor thought I was being neurotic, so I went to a naturopath who asked me to write down everything I ate for two weeks.
I can say I ate better for those two weeks. When I felt like eating junk or sugar, I stopped myself because that meant I would have to write it down. I felt quite smug when I handed over the sheet the naturopath.
She frowned and asked me if I was a vegetarian.
I shook my head. “No, Why?”
“You have no meat or fish on here. Actually, you have very little protein on here at all.” She told me my diet wasn’t as bad as some, but that I was probably lacking B vitamins and ferritin and a few other things I had never heard of. Then she sold me two hundred dollars worth of supplements and told me to stop eating dairy, eggs, and gluten.
And I did. For a miserable six months. I lost a few pounds and the hives went away, but I can’t say I felt much better. I was probably too grouchy from guzzling soy lattes and living without almond croissants from Thomas Haas. Eventually I cracked, but in the meantime I learned about kale, quinoa and how to do fancy things with vegetables. And yes, I learned to enjoy salad as a meal in itself, not just something to garnish my plate with.
This one has got Jerusalem couscous in it–also known as Israeli or pearl couscous. It’s not a good bet if you’re gluten free but you can always use millet, which is more like regular couscous in terms of size and texture, and would do well in this dish. Ever since I tried this type of couscous, I’ve been hooked, and I find it pairs really well with the Mediterranean type vegetables like tomatoes and cucumber. You can add chicken or smoked salmon for protein to make a beautiful yet light main.
Jerusalem Couscous with Sundried Tomatoes, Cucumber, Peas, and Mint
1/2 (75g) cup baby frozen peas, thawed
1 small cucumber, seeded and finely diced
10 sundried tomatoes, sliced
handful of mint leaves, torn
1/2 (60g) cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or crumbled feta cheese
2 green onions, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt–or to taste
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1) Cook couscous in 1 1/4 cup boiling water until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain any extra water and add to a salad bowl.
2) Add cucumber, peas, tomatoes, green onion and garlic; mix to combine. Mix lemon juice and olive oil together in a small jar until emulsified. Pour over couscous then season with salt and pepper. Mix through the mint and cheese and add a little bit of extra salt and pepper to taste.