Saturday, November 18, 2006

israeli couscous with carotenoids, betacyanins, and xanthophylls topped with anthocyanins

The monkey was mixing up a batch of fruit salad. "What do you want in your salad dada?" Her method involves tossing in ALL of the fruits and veggies that she has into a large bowl, and giving them a thorough mixing. When this is complete she fishes out your requested items, plus a few that she thinks will pair well with them, and carefully arranges them on a plate for you. I believe her last plating involved peach, orange, cabbage and cauliflower as a bed, supporting the bell pepper and corn 2nd floor. I was inspired to duplicate her range of colors into a dish that had alot of local* ingredients. It made me think of using our carrots, butternut, beet, and yellow bell pepper that was hanging around the kitchen from the last trip to the farmers market. We also had local* mushrooms, celery and onions that I figured would go well with everything else as long as I tied it all together with some ginger, and maybe drizzled it with grenadine.

So, I roasted some butternut, steamed some beets, sliced some carrots and bell peppers, chopped onions, celery, mushrooms, garlic and ginger, picked a few strawberries and little bit of mint, and measured out a few tablespoons of grenadine. A few cups of israeli couscous topped it off.

I sauteed the onions/celery/mush/gar/gin combo in olive oil and combined it with the couscous and some water in our largish green caserole thingy. To this I layered the sliced carrots on one side and bell pepper on the other and then piled on the butternut and beet. I topped this all of with the strawberries and a healthy pouring of the grenadine. I poked some mint sprigs in a few places and put it in the oven at 350 for over an hour.

And because this meal was all about the fresh, colorful, and somewhat local* produce, we steamed some cabbage (yet more anthocyanins) and carrots (carotenoids........duh?) to serve up with it. Those crazy beets stained the couscous a nice burgundy (those betacyanins are the ultimate in staining, they will even turn your urine pink if you eat enough, so I hear...) and that cabbage, WOW! (although in honesty the cabbage was not that color when I put it in the pot. It was no trick, just plain ol' purple cabbage, steamed until quite tender). In fact now when I look at it, I think that we needed some more yellow stuff (xanthophylls) to offset that shocking bluish purple. I mean, do you eat bluish veggies THAT often?

This meal really made me reflect on how dull and boring most of the typical American diet is. I guess as a stay at home dad, who cooks, loves veggies, and doesn't eat much meat (less than twice a week lately, and that usually fish), I'm not exactly typical. I like that.

* Local for purposes here being produced in California, within about a three hour drive (say 150 mile radius from home) and purchased by us at the closest Farmer's Market or at our one of our neighborhood stores (all walking or biking distance). The onions, celery, garlic, bell pepper, carrots and beets are all organic and from the Farmer's Market. The grenadine was from Reedley pomegranates, juiced by hand with a ricer and then boiled with a cup of organic sugar (Whole Foods). The butternut was also from Reedley. The ginger is admittedly from Brazil (Berkeley Bowl), and is a leftover from my last attempt at making candied ginger. The mushrooms and couscous are from Whole Foods, the mushrooms produced locally (Monterey County), the couscous from unknown sources (I didn't pay much attention to the bin it came from as this too was a leftover ingredient from a past dish, I do believe it was organic). The olive oil (Greece, Kalamata actually) and the salt (France) were from the mediterranean by way of Trader Joe's. We had a locally produced olive oil that could have been used, but I can't yet justify using the $15 bottle of dipping/dressing oil for frying in a pan. I will look into getting a "cooking" oil from the local folks. The little strawberries and fresh mint are from our yard. You could say that this dish was a result inspired by the monkey's color scheme, local ingredients, what was in the cupboard, some oil-economics (olive), and the food we pass everyday going in and out of our door.

Putting it all down in this form and documenting where the meal came from goes out to my sister-in-law Sheryl. For being one of those folks who are brave enough to look at where your food REALLY comes from (and who having made it through the corn chapters in the Omnivore's Dilemna, now probably doesn't see that big grass the same anymore). Let me know when you get your hands on one of them Polyface chickens.

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