I'm a big believer in the idea that people come into your life for a reason. When I met my friend Clara a few months back we were both amazed that despite having gone to GWU and Georgetown and roaming around DC for years, we had never crossed paths in the city until we interned together. We quickly realized we both had a passion for cooking and everything food, and so our friendship began over an inner-office happy hour, followed by platters of sushi and conversations about how we both had secret dreams of going to culinary school. Clara, who I hope doesn't get embarrassed by this post, is in a word: worldly. She's my graceful, dual-citizen friend who can switch between languages effortlessly and with such poise that I wonder how on earth I'm running in her social circle.
When I cook for more than four people, I usually stress. I thrive on the adrenaline, but I admit that most of the time I get pretty ridiculous. I get sweaty in my shoebox-sized kitchen with poor ventilation, and I'm usually running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to dress myself, bake, put on makeup and assemble however many courses by the time my friends get here. My kitchen is almost always strewn with pots and plates afterwards. My hair often develops a terrible halo of frizz. I am endlessly asking myself, "Is there enough food?" when I know deep down that I have made enough to feed twice as many people as I'm cooking for.
And then there's Clara. She has yet to really start packing for a month-long adventure across several different time zones and she has ten to fifteen people arriving for dinner on her rooftop in minutes. Did I mention she leaves tomorrow? She's calmly drinking white wine and mixing in the very last ingredients for a cous cous salad that she's decided to "wing it" on. There is not an ounce of stress in her kitchen. And the food is simple and delicious. I think you now see why I admire her.
Here's Clara's recipe for a pearl cous cous salad. It's got summertime written all over it. Bon appetit, foodies, and thank you Clara for letting me post this recipe and reminding me how to be graceful in the kitchen.
Serves approximately 4
- 2 cups of Israeli cous cous (also known as pearl cous cous)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 cup water
- 15 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- Bunch of fresh asparagus (10-15 stalks), roasted and sliced
- 10-16 oz. block of feta cheese, crumbled/cut into cubes
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 3 scallions, cleaned and sliced
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1. Toss the asparagus with extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and place in one layer on a baking sheet. At 400 degrees F, roast the asparagus for 20-25 minutes (until tender). After it's cooked and cooled, cut the asparagus into pieces, about an inch-long or so.
2. Over medium heat, put the cous cous in a pot with 2 tablespoons of EVOO. Stir until the cous cous grains are golden brown, for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and water. Stir occasionally and cook until the liquid has been absorbed by the cous cous and the grains are tender. Allow the cous cous to cool before adding the other ingredients.
3. Mix in the tomatoes, asparagus, feta, pine nuts, scallions, EVOO, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Toss to make sure all the ingredients are mixed well.
4. Serve and enjoy.
Take a bite: www.bonappetitfoodie.com.