Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Reliving my Childhood

Growing up, some of my most vivid memories are of visiting my grandparents in Puerto Rico. Waking up in my grandmother’s house, it wasn’t unusual to be up at 6:30 a.m. (which may explain my present early bird tendencies) with the smell of strong, Spanish coffee brewing, and the warm tropical breeze coming in through the windows. My sisters and I would join my mom and grandparents out on the front porch, as they sipped their coffee, and I almost inevitably, would train my eyes to the ground, looking for a lizard, coqui (the tiny tree frogs that are indigenous to the island), or even just a really cool bug- I was always fascinated by the tiny creatures that sent chills down my mom and grandmothers spines. But that’s what I remember, the pungent tropical air, while relaxing on the porch.

Today, I relive those memories by sitting out on my fire escape, sipping an iced latte (made with that same, stong Bustelo coffee), the air scented with the fragrance wafting from my container herb garden. Last year, I only grew basil and parsley. This year, I decided to take it a bit further and add chives, rosemary, dill, purple basil, and scallions. My plants are still small, but they are growing vigorously, and I’ve been taking clippings from them regularly to use when I cook.

The other night, Angie was over for dinner, and I was trying to come up with something that I could make pretty quickly. I toyed with a few ideas, and finally settled on grilling (yes, I got a grill!) some cumin rubbed tilapia along with veggie packets, and made herbed couscous on the side. And yes, I used fresh herbs from my little garden to make it!

As a side note, I don’t quite get what couscous is, exactly. A quick Google search tells me it’s coarsely ground semolina pasta… but it’s not something I ever ate growing up… In fact, I think the first time I ever had it was a few months ago, making dinner with my mom at her house. I just found a recipe online and went with it. But, I like it. I make it with chicken stock, onions, carrots, celery, rosemary, and dill.

  • 1/3 cup each chopped carrots, celery and onions
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup instant couscous
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 T chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 T chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Coat the bottom of a medium sized pot with olive oil over medium heat and added the chopped vegetables.
Once they are tender, add the chicken stock, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Add the fresh herbs and couscous, and remove from heat. Let it sit covered for five minutes, then fluff with a fork.

  • 2 tilapia filets (I usually get the ones that are individually frozen in a bag of about 6)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 T chopped fresh parsley

Drizzle each filet with olive oil, then season each side with salt and pepper, cumin, and parsley. Grill on foil or a grill topper over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes on each side, until fish is opaque and will flake with a fork.

  • 1 cup raw vegetables, your choice (I used a frozen mix of green beans, wax beans, and carrots)
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 slices of turkey bacon, cooked to a crisp and crumbled
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 T chopped fresh rosemary

Cut two 12 inch long sections of foil, and divide veggies between them. Drizzle each packet with olive oil and sprinkle the crumbled turkey bacon on them. Season with salt, pepper, and rosemary.
To fold packets, bring up the two sides of the foil and double fold leaving room for heat to circulate inside the packet as it cooks. Then, double fold each end to form the packet. Grill for about 10-12 minutes over medium heat, until veggies are tender.

Once I got the couscous all set to steam and had thrown a couple of Pillsbury dinner rolls in the oven I went outside to grill. All in all the meal took about 30 minutes from start to finish, with clean simple flavors throughout.

I’m really getting into throwing a few simple flavors together and seeing how it goes, and this meal was definitely a success. And… I’m sort of tempted to expand my herb garden a little more to see what other combinations I can come up with, although, I suspect, there is a lot more I can do with what I have. I guess well have to wait and find out. : )


  1. very inspiring ... makes u want to go home & cook. keep up the great work!