I received The Meat Free Monday cookbook from Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler. The cookbook was edited by Stella, Paul, and Mary McCartney. I knew that Paul McCartney was a vegetarian, which of course I learned from The Simpsons. Although I’ve seen mention of meat free Mondays/meatless Mondays on food blogs over the years, I had no idea that they were the ones who launched the campaign back in 2009. Even though I’ll chant “you don’t win friends with salad” until the end of my days, that’s really only because it’s catchy and doesn’t necessarily reflect the way I eat. I was excited to dive into the cookbook.
Bonus Izzy shot
I grew up in a typical steak and potatoes American household, where a meal without meat is not a meal at all. To this day, my dad’s preferred dinner includes a giant slab of meat, with a side of potatoes or rice, and some vegetables. I was such a picky eater as a kid and hated most meat. My mom bought chicken nuggets for me over and over again until I learned to like them, since she was worried I didn’t eat enough meat. I’m still a picky meat eater, I only buy about 5-6 pounds of meat a month for the two of us, mostly ground beef and lamb. I prefer meat as an enhancement to a dish rather taking center stage, like slipping ground meat into sauces, sprinkling a little bit of sausage over a pizza, and adding chicken stock to a soup. If you serve me a giant slab of chicken breast, I’ll take a couple bites and dump it onto Cory’s plate when he’s not looking. Or when he’s looking. It just ain’t my thing, so many of the recipes in the Meat Free Monday cookbook are right up my alley. The cookbook is divided into 52 chapters, with meal plans for every Monday of the year — meatless breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts.
One recipe in particular that caught my eye was a pearl couscous and sweet potato dish. Surprise, I found a recipe with a Middle Eastern-inspired slant and had to make it. You start off by sauteing the pearl couscous until lightly browned. I hadn’t prepared couscous that way before and was delighted to discover that it gave the couscous a slightly nutty taste. Pistachios give this dish a nice crunch and raisins are added for a pleasant burst of sweetness. The recipe calls for a tablespoon of za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix that consists of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds. Sumac can be found at any Middle Eastern grocery, but if you don’t want to run out and buy some just for one recipe, just add a little more lemon to this dish, since sumac is sour. Cory and I have been eating this for lunch and loving it. If you love leftovers as much as I do, double the recipe and lunch is covered for the week. Thanks for the sweet new cookbook, Cher!
– Happy birthday, mom! I can’t believe you’re 39 again!
– Big batch of new save the dates are available in the shop, with more coming this weekend. Since you read the blog, feel free to use the coupon code BLOGLOVE10 to receive 10% off your order.
3 medium sweet potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon maple syrup
6 tablespoons olive oil (2 for the sweet potatoes, 2 for sauteing the couscous, and 2 for just before serving)
1 1 3/4 cups pearl (Israeli) couscous
2 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon za’atar (1 teaspoon thyme, 1 teaspoon sumac, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds)
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley
1/3 cup freshly chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 400F.
Add the sweet potatoes to a roasting pan, coat them with olive oil, a little bit of salt and pepper, and maple syrup. Mix thoroughly. Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes, check on the sweet potatoes to see if they’re cooked through. Once the potatoes are tender and caramelized around the edges, they’re ready. If they need more time, put them back in the oven for another 7-10 minutes.
While the sweet potatoes are roasting, get the couscous ready. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan or stock pot over low-medium heat. When hot, add the couscous and stir frequently. Keep the couscous cooking until it begins to brown, or about 5-7 minutes. Add half of the stock or water and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often until the couscous is tender and has absorbed the liquid. Continue adding the liquid until absorbed, stirring frequently. Taste test the couscous for doneness. When cooked through, lower the heat to very low and stir in the raisins, chopped up pistachios, za’atar, season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add one tablespoon of lemon juice, mix, and give a taste test. Add more lemon juice, if necessary. Mix in the parsley and cilantro.
By now, the sweet potatoes should be ready. Mix them into the pot. Ladle into bowls and serve.
Want to see more from the Food Blogger Cookbook swap? Here is the list of all the participants. Yay, food!