Saturday, October 2, 2010

Breakfast (or Dessert) Couscous

This morning, I was ravenous, and I wanted to make a hearty stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast. Unfortunately, the hubby woke up after a night of stomach troubles (poor guy) and asked that if I were to make breakfast, to please make something innocuous. Now, for us, innocuous means no eggs, no dairy, no grease... so basically, 90% of my breakfast ideas were not an option, especially since I had no desire to go out food shopping in order to get ingredients.

Then, I started thinking... what about couscous? A quick google search revealed that sweet couscous was not a novel idea - there were tons of recipes already out there. But alas, most of them involved dried fruit, which I didn't have on hand. After a quick survey of the pantry though, I had formulated a plan that fell somewhere in between Middle Eastern and Indian inspirations.

Breakfast (or Dessert) Couscous
Serves 3-4 for breakfast, more for dessert

  • 1 3/4 cup milk (I used almond milk, soy or coconut would probably be good here too)
  • heaping 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • heaping 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup instant whole-wheat couscous
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Microwave instructions:
Combine all ingredients except couscous, pistachios, and coconut in a microwave-safe measuring cup, and stir to combine. Heat in microwave until boiling, about 3-4 minutes (keep an eye out for boil-overs, which I didn't watch for - oops).

While the liquid is heating, measure out the couscous in a heat-safe bowl. When the liquid mixture is heated, stir once more, pour over the couscous, and cover the bowl until the couscous has absorbed the liquid, about 10 minutes.

Once the couscous has absorbed the liquid, fluff with a fork and mix in the pistachios and coconut. Serve hot, mixing in a little extra milk if desired.

Stovetop instructions:
Combine all ingredients except couscous, pistachios, and coconut in a medium saucepan (seriously, use one size bigger than you think you'll need) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Watch for boil-overs!

As soon as the milk mixture is boiling, kill the heat, and add the dry couscous directly to the pot. Stir, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Once the couscous has absorbed the liquid, fluff with a fork and mix in the pistachios and coconut. Serve hot, mixing in a little extra milk if desired.

This was so satisfying. Even though couscous is not a grain (it's technically a pasta), the form factor and texture makes it comparable to steel cut oats or grits, so it makes perfect sense as a breakfast food. Plus, most couscous sold in the US is of the instant variety, which is basically foolproof as far as cooking goes.

Sorry for the inexact measurements. For this first attempt, I used the smaller amount of almond milk, and the larger amounts of brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamom. Both the hubby and I agreed it might be just a touch too strongly flavored and too sweet like that, so I would recommend going between those seasoning measurements to taste. As for the liquid amount, I think a slight amount of extra liquid would add just a bit of pleasant creaminess to the whole shebang. Also on the list to try next time - 1/2 cup golden raisins, added to the dry couscous.

Update (10/23/10):
I made this again and adjusted some of the amounts. I upped the milk to 1 3/4 cups, reduced the cinnamon and cardamom to a heaping 1/4 tsp each, and reduced the brown sugar to 1 1/2 Tbsp. I think the flavor profile was a little more balanced. I also made it on the stove. If I'd had any extra milk, I would have also poured just a bit into each bowl to give an extra bit of creaminess. The recipe has been updated to reflect these changes.

Mexican Poached Eggs

Who here likes making big full dinners after work?

Don't all raise your hands at once.

Well, for the 100% of us who don't want to spend the entire night dealing with dinner, here's a dish that is practically the embodiment of the Slacker Gourmet philosophy.
  • It's quick - about 15 minutes from start to finish.
  • It's easy - if you can open a can, open a jar, and crack an egg, you have the necessary skills to make this.
  • It's versatile - it works equally well for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
  • It's cheap. Like, really cheap. You probably have 3 out of the 4 ingredients on hand already.
  • It's really satisfying. It may not look too pretty, but after a full day at work, it's the perfect warm, tasty, and healthy meal.
This is very loosely inspired by the Italian dish Eggs in Purgatory, which was one of those eye-opening epiphany recipes for me - namely, "Hey, I can poach eggs in flavorful liquids, not just water!"

Mexican Poached Eggs
Serves 2

  • 1 14.5oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 1/2-2 cups salsa (I used salsa verde)
  • 4 eggs
  • Queso fresco, crumbled

Combine beans and salsa in a large skillet over medium heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Break the eggs into the bubbling mixture, spacing them evenly in the pan. Cover and let simmer for about 5-6 minutes, or until whites are barely set (on my stove, this results in firm but slightly creamy yolks). Scoop beans, salsa, and 2 eggs into each bowl and top with queso fresco.

Like I said before, this is not a pretty dish in the slightest. There's really no good way to present it, and I find it's ultimately the most satisfying when everything is just glopped together in a bowl. I definitely recommend queso fresco as the cheese topping, as opposed to something melty like shredded monterey jack - both for flavor and texture.