Last week, while watching the Food Network's Next Star (yes, unfortunately I have become addicted to that), I saw, well, what everyone else did- a young cute married urbanite Italian lawyer chick, overly bright-eyed, ridiculously speed-talking, highly driven, obnoxiously energetic, self-taught in the kitchen, food-blog-writing, and clearly very emotional, getting booted off the show basically because she began her presentation by singing the first line of the Italian cliche song O Sole Mio.
I knew this girl in law school; not this exact girl, but this prototype. I wasn't her, I promise. Really, I could not have cared less about this person-in any incarnation- and particularly on a Food Network show if I wasn't mortified of the association- around 30, petite, married, not-from-the-US, city-dweller, lawyer, blog-writer, kind-of-hyper, not formally trained in cooking, seemingly energetic, stubbornly driven, and unapologetically emotional. In a type-casting way, I fit the mold.
Add to that: the only thing I could think of for my August 1st post title and the theme I am choosing for the blog this month was the It's Now or Never song (come hold me tight, kiss me my darling, be mine tonight...). Yeah, I probably would have sang this if given the proper forum, not that my voice is anything like Elvis, or any better than Serena's. And maybe I would have been booted off the show, not that I'd ever get on the show, but you get my drift. I am not that chick-for better or for worse.
All of that to say that August is the month where anyone can cook amazingly- hence the Now or Never line. Produce is outrageous in August even in Colorado. Preparation can be minimal while still getting great flavors and amazing dishes. Cook now or forever hold your peace, I say, and I am not even trying to be cheesy- it just comes natural.
While I can't promise that I won't make some crazy recipes at home this month, I have decided that August will be dedicated to the simplest and tastiest of recipes- my version of seasonal and local 30-minute dishes (not to be confused with meals, although perhaps at times that will be the case). The hottest produce, easiest preparations, tastiest tricks and recipes using zucchini (the endless supply of zucchini!), tomatoes, corn, fresh herbs, baby leeks, turnips, beets, peaches, apricots, and whatever else I can't live without at the farmers market.
Israeli Couscous with Zucchini, very loosely based on a Suzanne Goin, Sunday Suppers at Lucques recipe
Ingredients: 2 cups Israeli couscous; 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock; 1/2 onion finely chopped; 1 medium zucchini diced very small; 2 tablespoons butter; 1 teaspoon kosher salt, fresh ground pepper to taste.
A warning: Israeli couscous(also known as Italian couscous, but I almost wanted to leave that out because of that Serena girl) has to be the world's most slippery substance. One wrong move while handling it and an infinite number of tiny little pasta-made beads will explode all over whatever surface you are on eventually somehow making their way to the floor. I am not kidding- these little beads are wild.
Bring the stock to a boil and salt it with about 1 teaspoon salt. When it boils, add the couscous and stir. Turn the heat to low and cook covered for 10-12 minutes until cooked through but still nearly al dente. Most of the stock probably evaporated. If it didn't, drain it. Add the butter, stir, and cover again until the butter melts. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.
In a separate pan, but probably during the time the couscous is cooking, heat up 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium-high heat and add the chopped onion. Saute for 2 minutes stirring a couple of times and add the diced zucchini. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the zucchini is soft and cooked through- about 5-7 minutes.
Add the zucchini and onion to the cooked couscous and stir it all together. The zucchini bits won't be much larger that the couscous beads. Tasty as a side-dish or on its own, and a great leftover food for lunch the next day!
That said, don't believe in type-casting! Cook this month more than any other month because the bounty is outrageous. Eat local. Keep it simple. Try my recipes. Visit the blog often. Ciao- just kidding!
Photography by Jennifer Olson.