I'm fascinated by the human propensity for ritual. I've only been working at my new job for 3 weeks now, and I already have a parking lot ritual: Every morning, I park in the same location, facing a forked, ivy-covered tree. It's a strikingly unique tree, and I enjoy being able to start my day by gazing at a bit of nature in the otherwise traffic-filled, chaotic inner-city environment of my new job.
My mornings are equally patterned - up at 5:30, shower (I'm one of those people who prefers working out at the end of the day; in the mornings I'm far too blurry and insensible to make much progress with weights or the stationary bike), dress in scrubs, then hasten downstairs to light the fire under the tea kettle, prepare my lunch for the afternoon (lunch, on the contrary, is not a ritual at all, as I quickly become board with the same lunch every day), and then, the best part of my morning, the simple delights of my favorite breakfast - a cup of plain, non-fat Greek yogurt, topped with sliced banana and a handful of cereal (Trader Joe's High Fiber O's is my long standing favorite...)
I suppose you could say I have a rather ritualized relationship with eggplant as well, because it seems as though I cannot allow a week to escape without preparing some form of eggplant. Lightened eggplant Parmesan, babaganoush, Zach's favorite sweet and sour eggplant salad, grilled eggplant, simple roasted eggplant... I have a rather epic fondness for this unusual, purple vegetable extending all the way back to a childhood filled with my father's fried eggplant and little cans of pickled eggplant imported from Israel. I suppose few children would count pickled eggplant among their favorite foods, but I wanted to eat whatever Dad ate, even gamely playing along with spice-tolerance contests, in which each of us would top each bite of our toast and eggs with increasing quantities of fiery hot chili paste. Thus began a life-long infatuation with eggplants and spicy foods.
While we're on the topic of personal traditions, another one of the weekly habits Zach and I created is fixing brunch together every Saturday or Sunday morning (and sometimes both!)
Yesterday morning found me pondering how delighted I am with Trader Joe's whole wheat bagels, which are deliciously chewy, have a terrific nutrition profile that far surpasses any other bagels I've met, and are even vegan, too! How cool is that?
(TJ's whole wheat bagels with smoked salmon, avocado, and capers...)
Returning to the larger subject at hand, though, perhaps I am so fond of the simple pleasures of little rituals because I tend to be so spontaneous about most of life... Indeed, amidst all the "let's go to North Carolina for the weekend for no apparent reason," it is comforting to know there will always be an eggplant.
Whole Wheat Couscous Salad with Eggplant
* Adapted from the May issue of Nutrition Action Newsletter *
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup whole wheat couscous
1 (15oz) can chickpeas, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
1 green bell pepper, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 medium-sized eggplant, finely chopped
2 T tomato paste
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 T honey
1 cup vegetable broth
~ Toast the pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.
~ In a saucepan, bring the 1 cup broth to a boil. Stir in the couscous and chickpeas, cover, and set aside.
~ In the same, now empty, skillet over medium heat, add the olive oil and saute the bell pepper, onion, celery, and eggplant until the onion and eggplant are tender.
~ Reduce the heat to medium-low, and stir in the tomato paste, red pepper flakes, balsamic vinegar, and honey.
~ Stir in the broth, and simmer for 10 minutes - until the liquid is reduced by around 1/3.
~ Stir the eggplant mixture into the couscous mixture, and serve warm or cold, topped with the toasted pecans!
On the blog this time last year... Spinach and Tomato Tart!