On an evening where creativity simply refused to produce any delicious ideas, I was searching in every crevice of my memory for inspiration.
I hadn’t made any rice, so natto-gohan (fermented soy beans with garnishes such as chopped scallions, shiso served over steamed rice) was out of the question. I didn’t feel like making noodles, since we had just had the sardine-caper-maitake liguine the other night, and when both natto and men-men were off the menu, the girls grumbled. The girls adore their natto – and often, I’ll stir in other items such as the scallions, shiso mentioned above, as well as blanched and chopped okra, mekabu (a kombu variant) and any other vegetable (e.g. grated daikon, chopped enoki mushrooms) or item that can be incorporated into the natto. Needless to say, without rice, natto was out of the running.
I sighed, opened the pantry door, and looked hard at the various boxes of items. Bulgur, Whole wheat farfalle, whole wheat couscous stared back at me. Bingo.
Couscous it shall be.
The freezer had some chicken sausage, which I quickly defrosted, and placed on my gas-grill, which I had turned on to pre-heat. I cooked the sausage over medium heat, placing the sausages in the middle part of the grill (set to low), with the two outside burners set to medium. I wanted the sausage to cook thoroughly, but not burn.
I then filled up a pot with 1 cup water, 1 cup chicken stock (Trader Joe’s, free range, organic) and brought to a boil. I added 1 cup whole wheat couscous, stirred in a handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden, covered the pot, and removed from the heat. I then, washed 1/2 a bag of baby spinach, drained, and added to the pot, on top. My aim was to have the remaining heat to wilt the spinach and tomatoes.
Once the sausages were done, I set them aside on a platter, and covered with a silicon lid (I have been trying to gradually cut down on aluminum foil and plastic wrap use at our house).
I quickly mixed the spinach and tomato into the couscous (crushing the tomatoes – they are quite soft, or may have already popped due to the heat) and flaked it with a fork.
I then plated the sausage and couscous – the girls’ sausage cut into bite-sized pieces, while I left the grown-up’s whole.
At first, the girls were a bit unsure of the couscous texture, and the little one made faces, bits of couscous sticking to the sides of her mouth. “Don’t wan-it,” she complained, as she picked out the spinach bits, and popped them in her mouth. “It’s not pastina,” the older one added.
My older daughter paused, and spooned a few couscous grains, and took a closer look.
“They made these by their hands?? That’s a lot of hands!” she added, and ate the spoonful.
The little one carefully watched her sister, and took a spoonful herself, and added, “Chicken! Pasta!” She then popped it in her mouth, and carefully chewed.
When we skyped with Jiji and Baba, my older one told them, “We are having Kusukusu (Japanese pronunciation of couscous) and chicken sausage!”
It was funny to hear, since kusu kusu is also an onomatopoeic phrase in Japanese for giggling. “Really, you’re eating kusukusu,” repeated Jiji and Baba with a giggle.