An influx of wonderful old friend (or, as I now prefer to say, friends-of-long-duration) houseguests left me with much less cooking time and energy this week than I would have liked. I was especially disappointed because I have been poring over the latest issue of Gourmet like some kind of Mesopotamian scholar presented with a long-lost cuniform tablet. I want to cook it all, which I think speaks as much to the joy of summer ingredients as to a particularly good issue of my favorite (food) magazine.
For one set of guests, I did make a version of a spinch and strawberry salad, similar to the one in the issue--handfuls of deep green, really flavorful spinach from last week (so much better than the bagged grocery store stuff that even I was surprised), sliced strawberries from our CSA (by way of the inimitable Thompson Finch Farm) the whole drizzed with olive oil from the egregiously expensive but totally worth it David Rosengarten EVOV "club", cheap balsamic (the good stuff, which I am out of--oh Surfas, how I miss ye!--would definitely have taken this salad to a higher plane), sprinkled with Maldon and lots of fresh ground Tellicherry pepper. I was expecting little, and it's definitely a subtle salad (as, I find, all spinach salads are--I'm an arugula junkie) but a delightful one.
Another set of friends inspired me to make the roast chicken stuffed with ricotta and herbs from the magazine -- definitely a repeat-worthy recipe. With it, I concocted an emergency side dish, partly to use up the pounds of peas I had accumulated over the last two weeks' CSA shares.
Italian Couscous with Fresh Peas and Herbs
2 lbs fresh peas in their pods
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup Italian couscous
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup each finely chopped parsley, dill and mint
1 T sweet butter
Shell the peas. Enlist a friend, or a small child, or both, to help. Pull the string, then use your fingernail (small child) or paring knife (adult) to slit the pea open; pinch the ends and pull the peas out. It's a whole lot of work for seemingly not a lot of reward; two pounds of pea pods gave me around 1-1/4 cups of fresh peas.
Heat the chicken stock to a boil, and add the Italian couscous. Boil between 8-10 minutes, or until the couscous is al dente. You want some of the stock to boil down during this time. Remove from heat.
Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and add the peas. Saute three minutes or until just tender.
Add the couscous and some liquid (drain some off if it seems too soupy) to the peas in the skillet and heat through over medium heat. Remove from heat, stir in the chopped herbs and and salt and pepper to taste.
Serve, and receive compliments, probably more than you're expecting, given the simplicity of the dish.