Couscous Salad with Roasted Carrots, Mint & Olives

Couscous Salad with Carrots, Mint & OlivesExcuse me for a moment while I shamelessly toot my own horn.

I’ve shared some pretty good food with you all in the last few months.  We’ve seen elaborate dishes like a caramelized fennel pork roulade, decadent gingersnap bread pudding, and painstakingly filled cauliflower ravioli.  You must think I always eat like a queen.

Well, I kind of do, but for every over-the-top concoction I share on the website, I make twice as many really easy, simple, big batch meals.  As much as I love to cook, I also love not having to cook.  When I work late and come home famished, sometimes all I want to do is walk through the front door, straight into the kitchen, and grab a bowl of something that’s all ready to go.

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume you feel this way plenty of the time, too.  You want to eat well, you just don’t want to spend a lot of time working in the kitchen after you’ve already put in a full day elsewhere.  You don’t want to fuss, you just want to fill your belly, then kick your feet up and relax.

Making a big salad that will hold up well for a few days will let you do all that.  This couscous salad is packed with roasted carrots and onions, loaded with fresh mint, and jazzed up with olives and orange zest.  It’s supremely satisfying eaten straight out of the fridge on a giant serving spoon at midnight or beneath grilled lamb and eaten at a table like a civilized human.

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Grilled Steak Salad with Italian Salsa Verde

Grilled Steak Salad with Italian Salsa Verde

When you’re a kid,  spring and summer stretch out endlessly.  Each day is perfection, filled sunshine and free time.  But suddenly, you realize your childhood is long gone and perfect days like these have almost vanished with it.  I’m talking about days when the weather is gorgeous, there’s no where you absolutely have to be, and nothing you can’t put off doing until tomorrow.  When these gems of days (or even just an afternoon or evening) roll around, you’ve got to seize them–head to the backyard, grab a lawn chair, and fully soak up the perfection.

Now, obviously, we have to eat and days like this call for simplicity.  Delicious simplicity–nothing complicated and nothing that’s going to keep us standing in the kitchen when we should be kicking up our feet outside.  We want something inherently good, like a grilled steak.  We can dress it for perfection with a salsa verde that’ll be put together in less than 2 minutes.

Before we go on, I should remind you this an Italian salsa verde and not to be confused with a spicy Mexican green salsa.  No tomatillos or jalepeños, just a green sauce made with a bunch of fresh herbs, garlic, capers, and olive oil.  Think pesto with fewer rules.

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Best-Ever No-Knead Pizza Dough

No-Knead Pizza Dough

I’m the type of person who is, sometimes really annoyingly, resistant to change.  Even if it’s the kind of change that might enhance my everyday living, like trading in my old flip phone or upgrading my decade-old, leaky, stained $10 coffeemaker, I’ll insist that my old way is just fine.  So naturally, I never had much interest in trying Jim Lahey’s famous no-knead pizza dough recipe that has been sweeping the rest of the nation for the last couple of years.  What good was that for someone like me?  I like spending time in the kitchen, I like getting my hands dirty, and I like kneading my dough.

An unfortunate side effect of being resistant to change is the tendency to hoard.  My old magazines had finally stacked up to the point of bothering me, so I recently started weeding through old issues of Bon Appétit and came across the no-knead pizza dough recipe again.  Fine!  I gave in and decided to give this crust a shot.

Thank goodness I did–it’s amazing!  It’s like the pizza crust I seek out in restaurants, made at home, in my ordinary oven.  The center is thin and crisp, the edges chewy and bubbly.  Plus, if you make the full recipe, you can keep balls of dough in the freezer and have pizza whenever the mood strikes.  So daily.

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Orange, Anise & Sesame Seed Crêpes

Orange, Anise & Sesame Seed Crepes

Anise and sesame seeds may seem like unlikely additions to your next batch of crêpes, but trust me–it’s outstanding.  Together, the anise, sesame, and orange taste mysterious, somewhat exotic, and completely addiction-worthy.

I wish I could tell you that I just pulled this brilliant flavor combination out of my head, but, unfortunately, that’s not the case.  The idea came from the wildly delicious Spanish crackers that I’m totally obsessed with.  They’re awesomely olive oily, large, round crisps, dotted with anise and sesame seeds, and sprinkled with sugar.  Even the packaging is delicious; they come wrapped in beautiful wax paper printed with poetic-sounding blue type.  Legítimas y acreditadas.

Spanish Olive Oil Tortas

I could easily form-a-pack a day habit if they weren’t so danged expensive.  But it’s okay.  It’s okay because I came up with these crêpes.  These crêpes emulate the essence of my beloved crackers without the hefty price tag.  The flavors are subtle, but intriguing and craveable.  You’ll love them with coffee for breakfast, as an afternoon snack, or stacked into a torte for dessert.

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Farro Salad with Tuna, Cannellini Beans & Watercress

Farro Salad with Tuna, Cannellini Beans & Watercress
I was in the kitchen, patting myself on the back for being such a kind, thoughtful girlfriend as I put this salad together.  The boyfriend has been making an effort to stop buying so many lunches during the workweek and pack something healthy to eat mid-day and there I was, wonderful me, supporting his cause and making a salad to help out.

Then, as I smashed a couple cloves of garlic with a few anchovy fillets to mix with tuna salad, I saw the bigger picture: I’m turning my boyfriend into that guy that brings the world’s stinkiest lunch to the office.  You know the one.  It’s the guy who brings the lunch that funks up the shared refrigerator, the guy you want to avoid after lunch with the garlicky-fish breath, the dude that…

…doesn’t care at all because he’s got a satisfied belly.

This is the type salad that you’ll be dying to dip into come lunch time.  The farro, cannellini beans, and tuna are going to fill you up for the rest of the afternoon and the zesty watercress is bound to brighten even the drabbest workday.  Just bring a tin of altoids or enough salad to share with the person in the next cube over and you’re golden.

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