Savor The Earth

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Lemon Spinach Couscous Salad November 30, 2009

Filed under: easy,salads,vegetarian — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 6:42 pm

when life hands you lemons, give 'em to the kids

betta with feta

Tis the season for Texas citrus and spinach.  Visiting the Sunset Valley Farmers Market this past Saturday we found a mountain of meyer lemons for sale.  2 for $1 grade A and 4 for $1 bird-pecked.  The kindergartner picked 8 from the pocked patch.  And Cora Lamar’s famous triple-washed savoy spinach, grown at Oak Hill Farm in Poteet, beckoned on Turkey Day despite the traditional table.

Now that (thankfully?) Thanksgiving’s dwindled middens have made room for the rest of Central Texas’ generous cool-weather bounty, you can relax and whip up this easy, brightly flecked and flavored dish, sized for a crowd.  Just in time for yuletide merrymaking.

LEMON SPINACH COUSCOUS SALAD makes a large, “entertaining size” batch

  • 2 teaspoons organic or local olive oil.  Try Texas Olive Ranch.
  • 1 smashed organic garlic clove
  • a pinch or so red pepper flakes, to taste
  • zest of 1 or 2 organic and/or local lemons
  • 1 10-ounce bag Oak Hill Farm triple-washed spinach—$2.99 a bag at Central Market, or other local spinach, washed well if necessary
  • 2 cups organic couscous.  Most bulk departments stock this.
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • zest of 2 organic and/or local lemons
  • ½ teaspoon salt.
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon organic butter.  Organic Valley of course.  Use your Whole Foods Whole Deal coupon for $1 OFF or click here for a coupon to use at another location.
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice from your organic and/or local lemons
  • 3 Tablespoons organic or homemade white wine vinegar.  I like Spectrum.
  • 1 ½ teaspoons turbinado sugar.  I buy this in bulk at Central Market.  Don’t forget to bring your own container.
  • about 2 teaspoons kosher salt–trust your taste. I use Diamond Crystal brand.
  • 1/3 to ½ cup top-quality organic (or your favorite Texas-grown) extra virgin olive oil.  I love Spanish Villa Blanca, not too preciously-priced at $9.49 for a 17-ounce at CM.
  • freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • several scallions, sliced (optional)

Cook the spinach:  In a very large (I use a 6-quart) saute pan or skillet heat the olive oil with the garlic and red pepper flakes.  When they start to sizzle add the lemon zest and spinach, in batches if necessary.  Stir and fold the spinach around the pan until well-wilted.  Remove from the pan and spread out on a plate to cool.

Cook the couscous:  In the same pan (don’t even bother to wipe it out), bring the water and next four ingredients to a boil over high heat.  Dump in the couscous, give it a thorough stir and quickly put a lid on the pan.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the couscous steam itself for 5 minutes.  Take the lid off and fluff up the couscous.

Mix the Dressing:  Combine the lemon juice and vinegar and stir in the sugar and salt.  Whisk in the olive oil.  Season with black pepper.

Assemble the Salad:  Chop the spinach and stir it into the couscous.  Pour the dressing over the mixture and toss well, tasting for tartness (add more lemon if needed), sweetness (add sugar—organic granulated—if necessary), and salt and pepper.  Lastly, gently fold in the cheese.  Serve cold.  Keeps well in the fridge if you’ve a mind to makin’ it ahead.


Texas Bún August 12, 2009

Filed under: easy,grilling,meat,noodles,salads,vegetables,Vietnamese — Austin Frugal Foodie @ 9:56 am

We’ve got a produce-challenged member in our household, but luckily that person loves bún , that fun (aren’t all salads fun?) Vietnamese rice noodle salad.  Pretty much any other dish containing the word “salad” repulses this individual.  But my bún is so tasty, and delights our mouths with such a charming medley of tastes and textures, resistance is futile.  Here’s how we’re búnning right now.

BÚN serves several salad suppers

Nước chấm–dressing/dipping sauce

  • 3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce (nước mắm)–I’m using Thai Kitchen right now.  You may have a favorite.  If not, this one’s fine and readily available.
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup honey, local of course
  • zest of 1 or 2 limes

Mix all dressing ingredients together.  You can prepare your nước chấm ahead of time and store it in the fridge.  In my house we always use it up well before it has any opportunity to turn on us.  If you have an under-one-year-old wantin’ to bún, be sure to replace the honey with 1/2 cup turbinado sugar and increase the water to 1 cup.  This is a kid friendly dish, by the way.

Pork Patties

  • 1 pound ground pork.  I usually buy Richardson’s pastured pork at Sunset Valley Farmers Market
  • 2 teaspoons turbinado sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • 1/3 cup or so minced shallot and or scallions.  throw in a little minced garlic, too.
  • 1 small green Texas pear, peeled and finely shredded
  • and fat pinch of black pepper and cayenne or paprika

Mix the pork patty ingredients together well, either with a stand mixer (my first choice) or by hand.  Refrigerate the mixture for a while–overnight or all day–to allow the flavors to come together.  Form about 9 patties (mixture may be somewhat loose–that’s OK) and grill them on a medium-hot fire.  Get them cooked through.  They’ll retain their moisture.


Different brands of rice noodles will cook up at different rates, so instructions here are inexact.  For the brand I’m currently working with, I placed the noodles in a 3 1/2 quart pot of boiling water.  I stirred the noodles down, covered the pot and took them off the heat for about 8 minutes.  Try testing your vermicelli at about 5 minutes.  When the noodles are tender, drain them in a colander and rinse them well with cold water.  Go ahead and rinse enough to cool the noodles on down.


  • julienned cucumbers (scoop out the seeds first).  I’m still finding Texas pickling cukes at our markets.
  • mung bean and sunflower sprouts–I buy these locally sourced from Central Market.  They’re available year-round.
  • sliced sweet onion–I’m enjoying the allium bounty of Hairston Creek Farm lately.
  • medium-shredded peeled Texas pear (ripe) or Asian pear.  I found Asian pears recently at Gundermann Farms booth at Sunset Valley.
  • julienned carrots are traditional but out of season at this time.  Hence the pear.
  • sliced hot chiles–red or green, your choice.  Somewhat optional.
  • fresh basil and mint leaves, cut in chiffonade or torn by hand.  Cilantro should take center stage here, but locally it’s out of season.  Every summer I’m saddened by fresh coriander’s absence, and I always swear I’ll grow rau ram or culantro next year.
  • crushed roasted peanuts or soynuts.  I’ve even used almonds.  I haven’t tried good ole Texas pecans, though.
  • fried sliced onion garnish–I last purchased Laxmi brand at Whole Foods.  Fiesta will certainly sell this product (maybe a different brand, though) and possibly Phoenicia.  Sometimes I find fried onions at the other stores, sometimes I don’t.

Now you’re ready to assemble your bún.  I like to use wide, not too shallow bowls.  Nestle a tangle of noodles in your bowl.  Festoon with a shower of toppings including one or two pork patties.  Some folks around here go for more veggies, some go for more meat.  Anoint the colorful arrangement with 2- 4 small ladlefuls of nước chấm.  You’re not aiming for soup here, but you do want well-seasoned performers in this show.  Prepare for a polyphonic jamboree of colors, flavors and textures!