Cuisine: Travel Through Food
By Diar Nejadeh
During these times when a weekender to Palm Springs seems like a splurge, a nice meal with a glass of wine and some pressed table linens can do the trick. This is my escape. For those of you who leave the nice china and the flowers for special occasions, stop it! Everyday should have moments of pleasure and relaxation. For me, it's about the food.
Preparing a good meal should be done without the stress of a strict timeline. Give yourself an extra half hour to roam around your favorite market or test the dish you are preparing after each ¼ teaspoon of salt you have added. Let go of the idea that you have to dine out to eat something flavorful and special. The key to impactful food is the quality of ingredients, seasoning and presentation.
Don’t be a scrooge; what you eat is important, you pay for what you get. Spend the extra 75 cents per pound. Salt and pepper matter, a lot. And if you’re cooking lemon chicken, quarter a lemon and put it on the plate! It really is that simple. People notice these things and if they are totally illiterate when it comes to food presentation, then they will say “Wow! This looks nice,” and you’ll feel good about all your hard work. Even when you’re making a bowl of spaghetti, save a little extra basil to sprinkle on top, you’ll feel special, I promise.
What takes food from a six to a ten (according to me) has to be herbs and spices. Once you learn the flavor profile of about ten herbs and spices, your cooking will change forever. In an effort to really push you, I thought up a recipe that is easy, but exceptionally flavorful. My saffron pistachio couscous will knock your socks off. Yes, the saffron makes the dish. Saffron is one of the most incredible spices in the world, and that is directly reflected in the price. Saffron is the stamen of crocuses and it has the most subtle, yet powerful flavor. Both saffron and couscous have their roots in the Middle East and have made their way into the cuisine of many European countries. The longevity of these two foods comes from their health benefits and their amazing flavor. A little bit goes a long way with saffron, and that’s the case in this couscous.
I hope this dish can make its way into your summer menus, as either a side or a main course, for a light lunch or dinner. With pistachios, dill, parsley, and green onions, this dish is elegant, yet hearty. A nice meal with family and friends is what it's all about. Take some time to truly enjoy your own home and what you have, it’s the little things that matter. Happy Eating!
Saffron Pistachio Couscous
2 Cups Dry Couscous
2 ½ Cups Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
1 Cup Toasted, Chopped, and Shelled Pistachios (Don’t Chop to Finely)
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic Finely Chopped
½ Teaspoon Saffron
1 Tablespoon Vegan Butter
3 Tablespoons Fresh Lemon Juice
½ Teaspoon Salt, plus a little extra to taste
¼ Teaspoon Pepper, plus a little extra to taste
½ Cup Chopped Fresh Dill
½ Chopped Flat Leaf Italian Parsley
(Don’t chop it finely, you should be able to see what herb it is)
1 Cup Chopped Green Onions
1. Begin by heating 1 Tablespoon of olive oil on a medium low heat in a medium saucepan.
2. When the oil is hot, add the 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes.
3. After the garlic is cooked, add all the vegetable broth, saffron, vegan butter, salt, and pepper.
Raise the heat to medium-high and cover.Let this liquid come to a boil.
4. Once the mixture is boiling, take it off the heat, add the couscous, stir quickly, cover with the lid,
and let it sit for 5-7 minutes until all the broth is absorbed.
5. After about 5 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork and add the remaining olive oil,
3 Tablespoons of lemon juice, pistachios, all the chopped herbs, and a little extra salt and pepper to taste.
Yields 4 Entrée Servings, or 6-8 Side Servings
I served my couscous with a light spinach salad
that was really easy to prepare.
I used baby spinach and made a simple lemon dressing that was equal parts lemon juice and olive oil,
with the zest of one lemon and salt and pepper.
Diar Nejadeh, a mother, wife, daughter, friend, home cook, and a television junkie. She's all about appreciating the beautiful and keeping it simple. Diar is also author of Diar's Table.