Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Summer's Last Hurrah

One of the happiest things that happened to me this summer was the direct result of a policy at my workplace. Every Thursday (this started in August and will continue into November), local farmers were invited to set up tents and tables and sell their fresh produce right in the courtyard, in the shadow of offices, hospitals and research buildings, in an urban setting where thousands of employees congregate.

At lunchtime once a week without fail, I am able to stroll down and get my pick of the season's finest fruits and vegetables, grown in nearby farms in Missouri and Illinois. This unprecedented access allowed me to enjoy the bounty of summer more than ever. Last week's market was the turning point- on the tables, you could see the last of the summer crops, squash, peppers, eggplant and tomato, sharing space with the first of the winter crops, cabbages, cauliflowers and greens.

Coming home with this mixed-seasonal assortment, I found myself with a tub of pesto and a container of cooked kidney beans (extras from the rajma I made a couple of days earlier) in the fridge and a scant cup of whole-wheat couscous in the pantry. It all came together in this quick salad that heralded the change of seasons in my kitchen.

On a side note, the cauliflower from the market was something to behold. For starters, it was not swaddled in plastic. The florets were shapely and looser than the turgid florets of the supermarket variety. The florets has light pink-purple striations on the stems. And the tasty was ever so cauliflowery!

Pesto Couscous Salad
(my own impromptu creation)

  1. Grain: Place 1 scant cup couscous in a bowl and cover with 1 cup boiling water. Cover and let it stand for 10 minutes. Fluff the grains with a fork.
  2. Vegetables: Meanwhile, heat extra-virgin olive oil in a heavy pan. Saute cauliflower florets, zucchini and summer squash coins and pepper strips until seared and tender, seasoning with salt and pepper. I find that fairly high heat is required to get vegetables that are juicy but with tasty brown flecks.
  3. Make the salad: In a large bowl, toss together the couscous, vegetables, a cup or so of cooked kidney beans. Dress with pesto, a hefty pinch of red pepper flakes, more olive oil and salt, pepper if required. 
  4. Taste the salad and add some lemon juice or balsamic vinegar if needed to brighten the flavors. 
That's it- a quick supper that exudes wholesomeness. It happens to be vegan too. And a one-dish meal, no less. Of course, other grains like bulgur wheat or barley or quinoa would be a perfect substitute for the couscous.

The other happy (or disastrous, depending on whether you look at it from the point of view of the taste buds or the thighs) discovery of this summer was the jarred refrigerated ranch dressing from Whole Foods. It goes with everything (ask us how we know), including as a sauce atop this salad.

I have butternut squash soup bubbling away on the stove as I sit here and type this, so watch for Fall flavors and heartier dishes on One Hot Stove as we roll into the colder months.

Dale's Tales

A day in the life of a busy dog...

9 AM: Nap in the sun

Noon: Nap in the sun 

2 PM: Congratulate yourself on a hard day's work.


  1. Now if you have a cat, as I do, you can see they clearly have a MUCH harder life than Dale - as they not only have to nap, and nap in the sun, but carefully track the sun as it moves across the floor. So over the course of three hours they migrate from one side of a room to the other following the sunny spot in slo-mo. It's a rough life, I tell you...

  2. I want a Day in Dale's life....... I want Dale! Woof and BIG hugs to u Dalu dada!

    The salad sounds great and filling. U are one lucky girl, to have the Farmers market at ur workstep!

  3. Thats a delightful yet simple quickie Nupur. Loved its easiness.

  4. Dale is really cute. And how nice you get to shop farm fresh at work now! The salad looks lovely.

  5. The recipe part was great, but the "dessert" , the pictures of dear Dale, were the best! I swear, that dog just keeps getting more and more handsome! Nice to see him looking so happy and healthy!
    I am looking forward to surviving the chilly months with your yummy recipes.

  6. That is wonderful Nupur!
    I have heard that farmers's market was a fixture in NIH before security concerns took over.

    And you salad looks so good.

  7. Lovely salad.. I love picking produce from the farmers market. I seldom do it it here in NY, but when I was in Philadelphia, I always bought my produce from the farmers market. I loved shopping at that market, the variety of vegetables they cared was amazing!

  8. aww..Dale is soo cute. Currently my life is a lil bit like Dale's actually....napping all the time :). It was sool that you were able to get fresh produce easily and i know what you mean about the cauliflower tasting cauliflowery...glad you had a good summer :)


  9. I love dogs!!! Dale is sooooo freaking cute!

  10. Nice - the couscous is a great touch to the veggie salad and love the addition of pesto as well! Very very appealing and will definitely try this out.

  11. the meal looks so delicious and fresh, Nupur. Pesto with couscous is a nice combo; have to try this soon now.

  12. Diane- Dale does that too, following the sun around :) it is the cutest thing.

    Nitha- Thanks

    harini- Thanks

    Manasi- You say you want Dale? I'll gladly mail him to ya :D he'll baby-sit your kid!

    Mona- Yes, it was incredibly easy to make!

    SS blogs here- I know, I love how easy they made it for us to shop for local produce. This is one policy that was very successful as far as I am concerned!

    notyet100- Thanks

    Kamini- LOL yes, he is getting handsome but more ornery in his golden years!!

    indosungod- Security concerns? Really? tsk tsk- how unfortunate. I really hope this market continues year after year.

  13. myspicykitchen- Yes, you get amazing variety and freshness.

    Rajitha- Hope you are enjoying your naps as much as Dale is enjoying his!

    Sharan- Dale says thanks (he is blushing) :D

    Miri- Thanks- It is worth trying when you have a crisper full of veggies!

    PJ- It was utterly delicious, for being so simple :)

  14. I believe my husband is a regular at that same market -- so convenient and a nice alternative to the Saturday morning markets. He always comes home on Thursdays with the crate on the back of his bike overflowing!


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