Now or Never

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.

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  • alison

    simple and beautiful,and tasty,of course!

  • Monet

    Lovely post…and I loved your words at the end. I'm all about eating locally and I think simplicity is best (especially when you don't have AC in your kitchen!) I wish I had cable TV right now because I would be hooked on that show too (which might be a good reason that I don't have it…I get addicted to easily)

  • Isabelle

    Now or never indeed. I just scored three humongous zucchinis at the farmers' market on Saturday… this recipe couldn't have come at a better time! :)

  • The Mom Chef

    So much zucchini, so few recipes. Even with the gazillion I've been collecting, my counter's still full of them, some as long as my forearm. What to do? The coucous looks wonderful.

    I'm happy to say that after being let down with the first Food Network Star thing, I haven't watched another. In fact, it came close to putting me off the Food Network altogether. I want to learn from real chefs and they've moved so far away from that it's not worth it anymore. Bring back Mario, doggonit!

  • A Thought For Food

    HAHA! Let me tell you a story. A few months ago, I was transferring couscous from the bag we got at Whole Foods into our storage container and… well… let's just say I made a big mess of things. Thankfully I have an awesome husband who helped me vacuum them up.

    We still find little beads of couscous stuck in little crevices.

  • Torviewtoronto

    lovely and simple recipe for the season

  • Magic of Spice

    What a delightful and simple dish…great for summer:)

  • Ed

    nice.simple.easy = great summer dish!

  • the constant hunger

    I've never cooked with Israeli couscous. Does the flavor differ from the other couscous that's more widely used? Anyways, the dish looks great.

  • Sweetums

    Simply wonderful. I really like the ingredients.

  • Baking Barrister

    I knew too many of those energetic, speed talking, obnoxious, cutesy girls in law school. We were clearly not friends.

    And seriously–I had Israeli couscous make a run for it a few weeks ago. I decided to vacuum the kitchen–sweeping wasn't worth it.

  • Andra

    Thanks all for coming by and dropping a line.

    MomChef-This is my first season watching this – and i am hooked, unfortunately- almost like watching a train wreck. I am NOT watching for the learning opportunities.

    Brian- I totally had the same thing happen to me!

    ConstantHunger- It is actually very different- this is basically a pasta in the shape of tiny little granules. It is more akin to orzo in texture and taste than traditional couscous.

  • Anonymous

    i enjoy listening to you like no other…..I will make this dish and many others this weekend with a fresh tomato/mozz salad with my tomatos and basil and then a gorgeous salsa with crazy flavor with cilantro peppers jaleps and tomatos from the garden as well – we are blessed to be able to grow these things then enjoy the flavors that come from the love from the earth and each other

  • Anonymous

    andra thats crazy wine drinker from WI

  • Belinda @zomppa

    Great idea and great recipe. I'm addicted too to the show!

  • Evan @swEEts

    I have to admit I catch myself watching that show all the time as well! Zucchini is such a great veggie.. I need to do more with it before the season is over! Thanks for the recipe!

  • baking.serendipity

    I'm a sucker for the show as well, admittedly :) I love your attitude and the recipe in this post! Zucchini is one of my favorite parts of summer :)

  • Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes

    Don't worry – I am positively addicted to that show too! Maybe it's a sign I should try Israeli couscous for the first time.