Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Reading

It will come as no surprise that I enjoy reading books about cooking. I do try to break it up a bit, but most of the books I've read in the past year have something to do with food. I recently picked up the book Lunch in Paris, by Elizabeth Bard, taglined "A Love Story, with Recipes." Totally up my alley, but I was definitely worried about the cheese factor.

There are a lot of these "love stories with recipes" books out these days, so many that I've been starting to cringe a little bit (though I read them all). I am embarrassed to admit how much I loved the enormously cheesy Cooking with Mr. Latte by Amanda Hesser, mostly because of her writing skills; The Sharper your Knife, the Less you Cry by Kathleen Flinn was endlessly fascinating, and I thought one of the better looks into culinary school that I've read about; Under the Table, by Katherine Darling was pretty terrible, on the other hand.

The thing about these books is that there are so many different aspects to love or hate. Some have terrible writing, but delicious recipes, others include a great love story but lackluster food. While the story was kind of so-so (and I have to say, I wasn't a huge fan of Ms. Bard herself), Lunch in Paris stole the show with its recipes. I would speed read through the chapters, dying to get to the recipes at the end of each one, drooling over ingredients and making notes on methods. Before I even finished the book, I was in the kitchen.

The first thing I made was her Coucous salad, spun out of a chapter on how French women stay thin (and how she tried to emulate the eating habits of her French mother-in-law). This is a light but filling lunch, and it stays extremely fresh and tasty throughout the week. (I pushed it to cover 1 1/2 weeks of lunches to bring to work...) The recipe makes a lot, so I would halve it if you are just making it for yourself, but for a picnic lunch with a group this is ideal. Plus, I found myself even eating it for breakfast it was so good! Don't skip any ingredients until you've made it once before - the way the flavors come together is just perfect.

Summer Couscous Salad
Adapted from Elizabeth Bard, Lunch in Paris

2 cups couscous
2 cups flat leafed parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh mint or basil, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 1/2 grapefruits
juise of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
freshly ground black pepper to taste
extra lemon or grapefruit juice, squeezed fresh on top before serving

1. Put couscous in a large bowl and add 1 cup boiling water. Stir and let sit while you chop the vegetables.
2. Whisk together olive oil, grapefruit and lemon juices, and salt.
3. When the couscous has cooled off, fluff with a fork and sift with your hands. Toss in all of the vegetables and herbs. Stir in the dressing and season with spices to taste. Serve cold.

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