good eats: honey lime couscous salad (& good sushi)

I once subscribed to Cooking Light magazine. It was a decent publication, but the recipes were hit or miss. While at the bookstore, sometime ago, I came across the Cooking Light Cookbook, and since it was on the bargain shelf and not too expensive I picked it up. A couple of days ago I was leafing through when I came across the recipe for a couscous salad. The ingredients were simple and it sounded both fitting for the hot summer weather and appetizing.

The recipe is listed as "Nectarine & Chickpea Couscous Salad with Honey-Cumin Dressing." I omitted the nectarine because we didn't have any on hand, and after making a batch of this salad, I doubled both the lime and the honey portions for a bigger punch of flavor. I'm convinced Big Red's palate has been bastardized over the years with an unflinching addiction to coffee and a history of smoking. While he no longer smokes (over 2 years - go Big Red!), I'm certain almost 15 years of tobacco has wreaked havoc on his taste buds. He likes a lot of flavor and is often adding more pepper or salt, or something - "doctoring" his plate as he calls it -to his meal.

The salad passed the Big Red test. It's quite tasty, definitely light, but filling thanks to the couscous. The recipe:

1-1/4 cups water 
1 cup uncooked couscous 
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (I doubled)
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 tablespoon honey (I doubled)
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander 
1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped nectarines (about 3 medium) (I omitted) 
1/2 cup coarsely chopped spinach 
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions 
1 (15-1/2-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained 
Nectarine slices (optional) (I omitted)

Suggested as a light summer lunch or as a side dish for pork or ham.

1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous.
Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork; cool.

2. Combine lime juice and next 5 ingredients (juice through coriander) in a
large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add couscous, chopped nectarines, spinach,
onions, and chickpeas; toss well. Garnish with nectarine slices, if desired.
Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 cup).

CALORIES 213 (16% from fat); FAT 3.9g (sat 0.5g, mono 2g, poly 0.8g); PROTEIN
7.8g; CARB 38.8g; FIBER 3.6g; CHOL 0mg; IRON 2.2mg; SODIUM 297mg; CALC 36mg

Good Sushi.
So last night was our anniversary dinner, for which we ate sushi at Sakura. It was great! Just what we were looking for. The ambiance and service were mediocre (check) and the prices were reasonable (check). We ordered steamed edamame, a 7-piece sashimi platter, and 2 specialty rolls each. The edamame was plentiful and freshly steamed. The sashimi left something to be desired. At Fusion, our spot in California, we got used to being served thick slabs of sashimi. Last night we found ourselves entertaining prosciutto thin slices. It was definitely disappointing. But - the rolls were fantastic. I ordered a Rainbow Roll and it looked and tasted just as I had anticipated. I also tried the Sakura Roll and it was yummy as well. Big Red was the Big winner last night with the Godzilla Roll. A freakish creation wrapped in seaweed and fried only to be drizzled with an eel and spicy mayo sauce. Each bite was meaty and layered with flavor. A home run. We got out of Sakura for $100, tax and tip included. I stuck to a diet soda and Big Red had two Sapporos.

We made note that sashimi in a landlocked state would probably never be as plentiful as it was on the coast. And our bill, probably for similar reasons, would always tally higher. That would be something we'd have to accept. The overall experience left us wanting to return, but next time with some editing to our orders. We were satisfied. Afterwards we headed out to the bookstore, I know - romantic, right?, and then a trip to DQ. I have to give myself a little pat on the back for this DQ outing. Instead of ordering a large Oreo cookie Blizzard, I ordered a small. It was delicious, as I knew it would be, and just enough to satiate my desire for something sweet.

As we sat in the parking lot of DQ eating our treats, it reminded me of our trips to Starbucks back in the day when we were living with my parents. We'd escape to Starbucks, order a coffee and a hot chocolate, and sit in the parking lot, windows rolled down with a couple of smokes (yeah, I was a sideline smoker back then). This time though, there wasn't anything to escape. Just the cap to a great evening together, some good conversation, and the moon lit full and fat in the sky.

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