Couscous with Preserved Lemon and Pistachios

couscous

 

We are three weeks into 2015 and I’m wondering…how’s the new year going for everyone?

I feel like I’ve been on a blogging vacation for waaaay too long and I’m determined to spend more time in this space from here on out (if that sounded like a resolution, it’s not).  The truth is that for many years I didn’t believe in New Years resolutions…or intentions…or whatever you want to call them.  I think I get it, though.  A definitive time start to changing things for the better.

Taking action.

For the past several years, my resolution has been to be a blessing to others.  I thought this was a pretty simple and somewhat easy-to-achieve goal, but in reality it isn’t.  It’s such a general intention that without specific steps or actions, it’s been forgotten pretty quickly.  To that end, I came up with some more realistic steps I could take that would hopefully result in blessing others by more of a “trickle-down” effect:

1).  Make eye contact and say hello to people in public.  The cashier at the pharmacy when I pick up a prescription.  The mechanic when I take the car for an oil change.  The person checking out my books at the library.  It’s so easy when we have a huge list of errands to run to go about our business with the mindset of moving on to the next thing we have to do.  We all say “how are you doing”, but more times than not it’s just a pleasantry.  Making eye contact is the key.  When I engage that person for a few seconds (instead of looking down at my wallet or my phone), I see faces soften and smiles.

2).  Use all of the food and toiletries we have in the house before buying more.  This is hard for me (but so right for our budget) on so many levels.  Sometimes I want a roast chicken, but we have a freezer full of perfectly good stuff that isn’t roast chicken.   Sometimes I’m convinced the shampoo my hairdresser uses to wash my hair is going to make my life better and have to have it, but I already have two bottles of shampoo at home.  This is already impacting our budget and I’m only three weeks in.

3).  Finally, I’m going to stay off of social media (specifically Facebook) as much as possible.  I’ve written an entire piece (but decided against posting it) on why I dislike Facebook, but I continue to log in primarily to manage the blog page.  Narcissism, politics, mean-spirits, gaming invitations-I’m over it.

Moving on…

I decided to go back to clean eating and working out the weekend after Christmas so that I wouldn’t look like one of “those” New Year resolution makers.  The thing with clean eating and cooking at home is that you really have to amp up your condiment game to boost flavors in vegetables, whole grains, and meats.

Enter preserved lemons.

preserved lemons

Thin-skinned lemons cured in salt and lemon juice are used in a lot of Moroccan recipes.  After sitting in salt and juice for a period of time, the lemons develop a flavor that is bright, intense and a little funky.  They aren’t eaten straight up, though.  The preserved lemon peel can be chopped and added to salad dressing, seafood, or grain salads for a concentrated kick of lemony flavor.

To make your own, I refer you to the kitchn.  You can’t get much easier than lemons and salt.  The only thing I do differently is that I halve this recipe  and use wide mouth pint jars.  It’s hard to say how many lemons you will need to fill the jar because it depends on the size.  The lemons I purchased this year were almost the size of oranges and I only needed two for each quart jar.  Also, I add a few peppercorns and cardamom pods, but that’s totally optional.

Take note that you won’t typically see photos of the lemons after they’ve cured for a couple of months because they just don’t have that crisp brightness as when they’re first placed in the jar.  Truthfully, they’re not very pretty.

Couscous with Preserved Lemon and Pistachios

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups Israeli couscous, or other grain or small pasta cooked according to directions
  • 1 preserved lemon
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit-I used cherries, but you can use chopped dates, raisins, etc.
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, lightly chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • black pepper

Place the butter in a large bowl. Separate and discard the pulp from the rind of the preserved lemon. Finely dice the preserved lemon rind and add to the butter along with parsley, dried fruit, pistachios, salt and cinnamon.

Cook the couscous: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the couscous and cook according to package instructions. Drain and add to the bowl. Stir gently until the butter is melted and the ingredients are well mixed with the couscous. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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couscous

 

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