It just seems like yesterday when I gave birth to my third child in January 2012. That was a year ago! Then, on February 27, 2012, I hit ‘publish’ on my first ever post for this blog, after cutting my teeth as a travel blogger for 4 years before that. That said, I’ve been pretty fortunate in my life to be able to provide for my children; to be able to indulge in something I love (travel, food and cooking); and to have amazing family, friends, and followers to keep me going! Truly, it’s such a blessing. I never thought my life – which do have its ups and downs – would be filled with such instinctive, profound, and abiding love. I may dream a lot about what “coulda, shoulda, woulda,” but – let me tell you – I am pretty darn happy that I do NOT live in a place where birds only sing songs of war, starvation, and death, or where shadows breed fear and menace. For that, I am indeed thankful. But, on to something lighter…
At first, I thought of doing a “best of” list, but decided that, perhaps, I will save that for another time. I’m sure other food bloggers are doing their very own year-end round-ups that are bigger and better than mine. For now, I will leave that idea alone.
So, I’m starting the year in a simple way. Simple – I like that. I’m not a professionally trained chef nor do I immerse in blogging full-time. I’m merely a working mom with 3 kids, who happens to love sharing her passion for food, cooking, and photography. I believe my readers are not professional chefs either, but that they share the same passions as me. I get the sense that my friends and readers want recipes that are simple but creative enough to turn family meals into special ones, without spending a fortune. Hopefully, my posts invoke inspiration – particularly in travel and culture – that can be parlayed into creations in the kitchen.
This Pearl Couscous with Grilled Tofu and Red Peppers is a good vegetarian meal to start the year with. It’s healthy and pretty simple to make. The tangy and umami-filled tomato sauce that bathes the pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous) is the perfect counterpoint to the smoky sweetness of grilled red peppers. The chewy texture of grilled tofu is the perfect vehicle for herby basil pesto (I have a recipe here). All together, it presents a cohesive dish that’s well-balanced enough for me to stay satiated long after I jammed the last scoop in my mouth.
This is the kind of dish I want to keep making: healthy and restaurant-worthy but simple enough to replicate at home. Let me tell you, I’ve never been so excited about a vegetarian dish before (pat on the back pour moi). I urge you to give this a try. I will stand by what I said: this is a delicious, well-balanced dish that I highly recommend.
|Pearl Couscous with Grilled Tofu and Red Peppers||
- 1-1/4 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup pearl couscous
- a knob of butter (optional)
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce, such as Marinara, homemade or store-bought*
- one block of firm tofu, preferably organic or non-GMO, drained and sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- olive oil for brushing
- basil pesto (homemade or store-bought)
- Heat water in a heavy sauce pan or small pot. When the water comes to a boil, add salt, then the pearl couscous and butter (if using). Boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package.
- In another pot, heat some tomato sauce. It can be homemade or store-bought. To make easy tomato sauce, see Note below.
- Drain the tofu block and dry with paper towels. This can be done the day before and stored in a container in the refrigerator. Cut the tofu in 1/2-inch thick slices.
- Cut the red bell pepper, remove the stem and seeds, and slice in desired portions.
- Heat a cast-iron grill pan on medium with a little bit of oil. When hot, brush the tofu sliced with a bit of oil and place on grill. Make sure not to touch or lift the tofu so as to make clean grill marks. Cook for at least 1 minute on one side, then flip to the other side and cook for another minute.
- Do the same with the red bell peppers. Brush with a little bit of oil and cook on grill until char marks form, about 2 to 4 minutes, or until soft.
- Assemble together in a plate and top with some basil pesto.
To make easy tomato sauce, heat a heavy bottomed pan with some olive oil, sauté minced garlic and onion. Add roughly chopped carrots, celery, and leeks for 1 to 2 minutes. Add a splash of white wine and cook for about 1 minute. Add fresh or canned tomatoes and stir until soft, about 15 to 30 minutes. If using fresh tomatoes, add a tablespoon of tomato paste and a splash of water. Then strain to remove the aromatics.