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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Salmon with veggie couscous and harrissa sauce

Tuesday afternoon lunches are starting to become a fixture as I adjust to my new part-time work schedule. I think they might be my new favorite meal.

Ann and I have about an hour of overlap at home, and I usually manage to carve out about 45 minutes for a decent lunch in between running to meetings and franticly checking off things from my to-do list. Its a perfect chance for Ann and I to catch up about our weekend gossip, and presents a fun challenge to be efficient and concise in both our cooking and story-telling. Its a good thing, because Ann has the tendency to week-long stories with multiple tangents, and I have the tendency to overcook things.

This week's lunch was nothing short of glam. It took 20 minutes to cook and 3 minutes to eat. And ironically enough, despite its elegant facade, came together out of sheer economic necessity. Poor Ann is so broke she can't pay attention, and had eaten nothing more than pasta and rice with butter for a week straight. She was in serious need of protein, and when she asked if she could cook up the two salmon steaks I had scored for free from my part time catering gig, I didn't have the heart to ask her to save them for a special occasion. Tuesday afternoon would just have to be a good enough reason.

The sauce is one that I've been wanting to try. It's vaguely Egyptian, the base of which my aunt taught me as a fantastic topping to mjeddera. I two-upped her version with sundried tomatoes and harissa, a Moraccan spice paste.

Ann, ever the culinary school student, plated it like this for the picture. 2.2 seconds after a satisfactory shot had been taken, I was back at the sauce pan, dousing my fish with a few more tablespoons. The vinegar-y tang brought the whole thing together marvelously, I dare say that it was exciting to eat because of it.

For the couscous, we first sauteed two green peppers and half an onion until they were soft-ish, then toasted the grain for a hot minute with the veggies. We covered it with enough water that the that it rose to one and a half knuckles above the layer of couscous [Lebanese weights and measures] and steamed until it ran out of water, or the pot started to burn, whichever came first.

Cooking the salmon was as easy as a little salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil. Ann said it was overcooked, but I didn't notice. Its such a recent thing, this eating fish business, so I have no point of reference to judge what is good or bad.

The sauce was an afterthought, built off of my desire to include sun-dried tomatoes in some fashion. I chopped a few dried tomatoes and heated them with some vinegar, mashed garlic, harissa from a tube, and tomato paste. In my mind, it was the star of the show.

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