anyone who knows me well knows that I love to cook, and that we cook quite a bit around here. my favorite thing to collect is cookbooks, i read food blogs and magazines like it’s my job, and one of our favorite saturday pastimes is shopping for ingredients for a complex recipe i’ve been dreaming about making and spending the evening holed up inside getting it just right. but summer is sort of the one exception to this rule. of course, due to the aforementioned cookbook collection/food blog obsession, there’s not exactly a shortage of recipes that i’m dying to make or techniques i’d like to work on. but summer for us means less grocery store trips and less meal planning, and more farmer’s market trips and more eating straight from our garden. making something out of what’s already there.
even though i do genuinely love to cook, we all have those nights. those nights where calling for delivery seems way easier or going out for happy hour appetizers seems like way more fun. on the night we made this couscous, i was thinking all those things, but also feeling a little guilt about the swiss chard starting to wilt in my fridge and the san marzanos on the counter that i kept saying i was going to make sauce out of and can for the winter. in this particular occasion, my guilt won out and we whipped up this riff on your basic spaghetti and tomato sauce by using couscous instead and making our own what i’m calling “quick tomato sauce” with san marzanos from our garden, and adding in some greens for good measure. as is usually the case, i was happy with our decision to stay home by about halfway through cooking dinner, you know, when the tomatoes and onions started to smell like sauce and i knew this was actually going to taste good – intentional, even – and not just be your average clean-out-the-fridge meal.
which is not to say that those kinds of meals won’t happen, too. we’ve had our fair share of taco combinations and pizza toppings and they aren’t always good. even still, those weird meals bring with them the satisfaction of making something out of what’s already there. and the hope that every now and again, the stars might align, the tomatoes will be perfect, and you’ll accidentally throw together a meal for two that actually turns out to be good enough to purposely make again and again thereafter.
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 medium or 2 small red onions, sliced into half moons
-4 San Marzano tomatoes (or Romas), diced
-2 oz. (about ½ can) tomato paste
-1 bunch swiss chard, de-stemmed and loosely torn
-1 cup pearl couscous
-salt, crushed red pepper
-parmesan and lemon zest to top
2. Meanwhile, while the couscous cooks, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and onions and sauté until fragrant. Next, add diced tomatoes and allow to cook down for a few minutes. Then, add tomato paste and stir into the tomatoes and onions. Let sauce cook for a few minutes, adding a couple tablespoons of water or vegetable broth if needed for consistency. For the last few minutes, toss in the loosely torn swiss chard pieces and let sauce continue to cook until greens become just wilted. Season with salt and crushed red pepper.
3. Stir sauce into couscous, and divide evenly among plates (this makes 2 large entrée dishes or 4 side dishes). Top each dish with lemon zest and/or grated parmesan.