Despite my undying love for New York City and all of its glories, I hate that sunshine there is at a premium. With much of the year swathed in gray, there’s something endlessly appealing about the 364 days of sunshine that Phoenix has to offer. I’ll probably never truly fit in here on the left coast (I’m an out-and-out East coast ex-pat, who bleeds 100% DC love when cut), but lemme just say that when Cali kids speak of their junkie-esque need for light on the regular, I kind of get it. My move out here to the lawless desert has provided me with blissful sunshine and true blue skies that could cure the seasonally depressed in an instant, and I’m totally hooked.
Nothing speaks more to my adjustment to the bright perfection out here in AZ than my urges to whip up all sorts of cold salads. From chilled pastas and crisp veggies sopping up vinaigrettes, to a simple toss of fresh berries, splashes of liquer and a chiffonade of mint, these chilled dishes keep my kitchen cool and my mood light. Tabbouleh is a favorite of mine – this herby salad is a quick accompaniment to grilled meats, a homey companion on a mezze platter of hummus and olives, or a throw together potluck favorite that pairs up with any and everything on the buffet line. Best of all, it’s a throw-together dish that is forgiving in terms of time – you can prep it ahead or even serve it right away. Arabic for “little spicy,” tabbouleh is the marriage of tart, spicy, savory and sweet – all that you want for a cool summer supper.
Traditionally made with bulgar that is soaked until tender, I’ve been known to shave a bit of time off the prep work by using whole wheat couscous. It takes a cool 4 minutes to soak, and you’re all set to toss with chopped herbs, lemon and olive oil. Parsley and tomato are standard, but feel free to experiment with the other greenery and veg – my favorite is the inclusion of crisp cucumber and slivers of scallions, along with plenty of mint to keep the flavors cool and fresh.
1 c. of whole-wheat couscous, cooked and cooled slightly
1 bunch of parsley, leaves chopped and stems removed (save for homemade stock)
2 plum tomatoes, deseeded and finely diced
2 scallions, minced
1/2 c. of mint leaves, chopped
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1/2 of a cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. of kosher salt
pinch of black pepper
1/4 c. of olive oil
In a large bowl, toss all ingredients until well combined. Chill for at least a half an hour, allowing flavors to combine. Serve.