It started with the spotting of whole wheat pearl couscous in the aisles of Wegmans, the familiar packaging of Bob’s Red Mill grains beckoning me. I have never cooked with pearl couscous before, but the idea of turning these beautiful grains into a healthy lunch sounded good. I looked up a few recipes that used regular couscous and decided to throw together things in my fridge and pantry to create this wonderful, deeply satisfying salad.
1 cup whole wheat pearl couscous
1 tsp salt
1.5 cups water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
14 cherry tomatoes
8-10 nuts of your choice (I used leftover macademia nuts)
2 tbps raisins or craisins (I used craisins)
2 tsps ras el hanout (a north African spice mix available on Amazon)
2 green chilis finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
Roast the couscous in a pan for 10 minutes till light brown and set aside.
Bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil, add the roasted couscous and salt and cook over a low flame till the couscous is cooked and the water has evaporated. This took me about 12 minutes.
Transfer the couscous to a large bowl.
Heat 2 tbsps of oil in the pan that you used to cook the couscous, add the chopped onions and sauté till the onions turn brown. Add the cherry tomatoes, nuts, raisins and ras el hanout and toss till the tomatoes are coated with the spice.
Turn off the heat and toss the onion mix into the cooked couscous.
Now add the chilies, cilantro, parsley and lemon juice. Give the contents another toss and serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: If your tolerance for spices is low, cut back the ras el hanout to one tsp and use one chili instead.
On our current trip to Sweden, Siddhi and I flew into Copenhagen so that we could have a day to explore the city.
The first order of business was to store our luggage at the airport (between Terminal 2 and 3 for 50 Kroners a piece). With this new found freedom, we got metro day passes to whisk us from Copenhagen Airport to the city center. The Line M2 from Terminal 3 took 15 minutes to reach Kongens Nytorv (King’s Square). From there, we embarked on a self guided walking tour.
Since the temperature was way too cold, our first stop was at a small street side stall to purchase scarves. We were on Stroget, the world’s largest and oldest pedestrian street. This 5 km stretch is dotted with shops with every known and unknown brand, restaurants including a ton of falafel shops, people playing music at every corner, and of course the aroma of freshly roasted nuts emanating from the many roadside vendors. We gawked, talked, and ended up at Townhall Square, where despite the cold, many a bride and groom were posing for pictures on their momentous day. Inside the Town Hall, a beautiful building in the National Romantic Style, we saw many more families surround their beloved couples on their wedding day. After celebrating from a distance, we crossed over to Andersen Bakery, where locals were having their leisurely Saturday breakfast with an assortment of coffees, breads and pastries. We ordered a Cappuccino and people watched as we waited for Tivoli Gardens to open. Tivoli is one of Europe’s oldest leisure gardens in existence since the 18th century. It is said that Tivoli provided inspiration to Walt Disney for his first theme park.
As soon as we entered Tivoli (buying a day pass with rides), it felt like being at Epcot. A mixture of rides, building facades representing a variety of countries, and 40 restaurants and fast food outlets concentrated in a small area. Looking at the lights everywhere, we were immediately regretful that we would not be able to take the sights in at night when the place looks like a bejeweled box (It is highly recommended that you do spend time here at night).
As we walked around, we came upon a number of people settling into comfy beach chairs to listen to the gospel festival. With the weather playing peek-a-boo between a drizzle and sunshine, we got on a variety of rides, including stepping on a giraffe on a carousel! The world is painted as a place with so many cultural and religious differences and yet on this day at Tivoli, there was just one universal language – the language of fun and love. Parents doting on their kids, their eyes lighting up every time their child experienced something joyful, groups of friends running excitedly from one ride to the next, and couples and families debating on which of the 40 restaurants to eat in.
My favorite ride here was the one that walked through the tales of Hans Christian Andersen, the author whose stories such as Thumbelina kept me entranced as a kid. We walked around the park some more, but with the drizzle and cold getting us down, decided to cross the street to get some serious inspiration at the Danish Design Center (Stay tuned for more in a separate post). The Danes have a long history of influencing modern design and this museum was both retrospective and futuristic in its story telling.
Looking at the food in the Dansk Café got us hungry, forcing us to retrace our steps to Stroget, where we had a delicious Middle Eastern vegetarian plate (with yummy falafels, lebneh, hummus, taboulleh, dolmas and a drink) for 70 Kroners. The highlight of this dunch (late lunch/dinner) was the crushed chilly paste in oil which was left at every table as a condiment and certainly added an extra kick to the meal.
As we stepped back to Stroget, the Saturday crowds packed the street, stores were teeming with people and shoppers were walking ladled with bags. Since Siddhi’s suitcase did a “will not close” tantrum on us enroute, we were forced to buy an expensive Samsonite suitcase which already has a rip in a day!
As the heart of Danish design and culture, we know Copenhagen has a lot more jewels. But for a duo pressed for time, our walking tour gave us a good sample of the city and its key highlights in a compressed time frame.
To learn more about Copenhagen’s metro, click here.
Falafels – just the mention of this divine creation from the Middle East makes me salivate. I have eaten Falafels in many lands….from the roadside stands of Athens to the small cafes in Istanbul to the little restaurants in Amsterdam. And each place brings it own distinctive touch to the mouth-watering Falafel.
We had heard about Mamoun’s from friends, but what drew us in was the long line of customers waiting to get one of the cheapest yet satisfying meals in the city. And Mamoun’s does not disappoint!
You could have a Falafel sandwich for under 5 bucks, a combo platter for under ten with Baba Ganouj and Hummus. The place can barely hold 5-10 people but is packed to the rim most evenings. After all, when you are a student and want a delicious hot meal, what better choice than digging into a hot Falafel sandwich that seems to hit a high note across all senses!!
Mamoun’s is located at 119 MacDougal St, New York, NY 10012. Phone: 212-674-8685
If you’d like to give them a try, please take a look at their menu at: