Accidental Lunches (Vadouvan Spiced Couscous), or in Which I Discovered the First CakeWalk Series...

Today, a Wednesday, is Library Day. Most weeks, boy-o and I walk to the library for a story time, then play at the park for a bit weather depending, and then walk home for lunch. I love that when I wake in the morning, I would have no idea what is going to be on the table for lunch. Most of the time it's just leftovers from the day before...but occasionally, I am inspired and something erupts either out of necessity or inspiration. Such was the case with the Accidental Lunch Salad back in June, and such was the case today with Vadouvan Spiced Couscous.

The flatbreads in the background are another of my favorite things, I happened to have some in the freezer, and also happened to have the oven on, so I popped one in to heat up and it was if I had just made them...

Another local obsession is The Spice House. (Find them online here: When I go in, I am addicted to asking what's new. The last time I went, in May, it was this spice that if I remember correctly is popular in Britain. It smelled great, like a mild yellow curry, and I bought a small packet to try.

I must confess to a small arsenal of small packets of Spice House treasures. Most of them I try right away, and then try to keep the packets organized in my cabinet. This Vadouvan however, managed to get a little lost in the shuffle, and happily rediscovered today. Originally, I had some leftover couscous, and cold home-canned corn (from my Mom), both peering back at me from the lonely confines of my fridge...then I used up two packets of frozen veg from the freezer: peas and green beans. I was really looking for Japanese Seven Spice Powder (Shichimi Togarashi) that was another such purchase from the Spice House, but remembering that I didn't have any more, I saw this Vadouvan looking up at me.

I think the resulting recipe, which could be easily changed to accommodate any leftovers really, would make a good side dish to any supper...or even a main dish with some kind of protein - currently obsessed baked Tofu or chicken comes to mind. As with all things I cook, amounts are approximate.

Vadouvan Spiced Couscous

1 1/2 to 2 cups leftover couscous

1-2 T. olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

1-2 T. Vadouvan spice

1 cup corn 1/2 cup frozen peas

1/4 cup frozen green beans

salt and pepper

(Normally I don't microwave much, but I did today since boy-o was whiney and tired and needed his PB&J...) Microwave peas and green beans in 1/4 c. water for about 3 minutes until done. Drain and set aside. Saute onion in olive oil over medium high heat until just starting to release some liquid. Add Vadouvan spice, and continue cooking until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add corn, and saute until heated through. Add couscous and heat through, then add peas and green beans with salt and pepper to taste, and let everything get nice and hot, about 3 minutes. The longer you leave the couscous on the heat, the crunchier it becomes.

You could certainly add more veg, cubed carrots and red pepper would have made the cut here if I wasn't trying so hard to be fast. I hope to post all future Accidental Lunches as they become imagined, and will try to measure my ingredients a bit better in the future to approximate more accurate recipe writing...

Low Country Sweet Potato Salad

I sometimes enjoy reading and trying reader recipes, and most definitely knew I would like Low Country Sweet Potato Salad submitted to a Cook's Illustrated magazine, Cook's Country, by Veronica Callaghan. I love sweet potatoes, and any time I find recipes for them - especially when they are roasted - I try them. And this recipe has bacon. What more can I say?

The first time I tried this, I used it as a side dish. It made so much that I added the leftovers to tacos, with nice results. This time I made it knowing how much it made, anticipating the tacos that would be made from the leftovers. I had these particular leftovers last night with my friend Elisa, visiting from Boston, in pinto bean tortillas, with scrambled eggs, tomatillo salsa and mango salsa. Queso Fresco would have been a natural fit, but none in the icebox, so thin slices of mozzarella were acceptable. My dimly lit room doesn't do much for showing how good this actually was... We each ate 2 and were full and satisfied.

leftovers, remade.

These tortillas are good freezer staples. I know now that I am good at cooking many things, but nothing in this world will allow me to make tortillas like my Mother. So instead of disappointment to myself, I adopted the art of the corn tortilla. After two years of only corn tortillas, freshly made to order, I got this recipe that R1's Mom gave her for flour based tortillas with beans which are not only healthful, but easy to make, and hard to over work. I also like that I can use any type of bean, and frequently use leftover refried beans or whatever type I happen to have going. I'm going to post the recipe here since I misplaced it recently, and didn't trust my memory so I had to call around the people I knew that had it until I got it again from R1.

(A Note: 15 oz. cans of beans contain only about 9 oz. of actual beans. I know because I bought a can and drained them and weighed them. Since I make my own beans from dried, I usually use about 10-12 oz. for this recipe, with fine results. The important thing is that the "feel" is right to you. Either alter the amount of water or flour depending on your likes, and cook Confidently! I also like to add other spices when adding the flour: coriander, cumin, chile powder, Mexican oregano... whatever you think you would like.)


(Makes at least 20, depending on your size. Leftovers freeze well for a month or so.)

1 15 oz. can drained black beans (or pintos, kidney, white, etc. see note above)

3 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup water (more or less)

scant 1/3 cup oil (I usually use about a half of a 1/3 c. measure with fine results.)

salt, 2 or more pinches

In food pro, processes beans until semi-smooth. If you use leftover mashed beans, just whizz them around to break them apart a bit.

Add oil, whizz some more, then add flour and salt. With machine running, add water through the top until the dough looks like dough, taking the top off to check the stickiness if needed. I usually use the whole 2/3 c. of water, and sometimes more depending on the humidity. Try not to over process.

When dough is cohesive enough to handle, turn out onto a board using a bit of flour if needed and lightly knead into a ball. Cover in plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes - 1 hour. Then pinch off ping pong ball sizes of dough, roll out on a floured board, and cook on a medium hot cast iron pan.

You may lose a few the first time you try, but persevere. I find that I like to add a little extra flour when I form the balls and roll them out, so I don't like to leave the dough too dry before it rests.

As for the potatoes...


(serves 6-8)

2 3/4 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces

1/2 c. olive oil (you can use a bit less if you like, like I do)

4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

1 large shallot, minced (or 1 white onion, chopped to your liking)

1 t. cayenne pepper

salt and pepper

1 T. lemon juice (I just use half a lemon)

1 t. hot sauce of your choosing

2 T. toasted sesame seeds

2 T. or more chopped parsley (or cilantro if you like it better)

Adjust oven racks to upper middle and lower middle positions, and heat to 375. I like to line 2 sheet pans with foil for easy cleanup, or you can spray or oil 2 sheet pans.

Toss potatoes with 1/4 cup of olive oil, bacon, shallot or onion, cayenne, pinch(es) salt and pepper. Divide between the two pans and roast 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Switch position of the pans at the half way point. Cool potatoes for 20 minutes.

Whisk together lemon juice, hot sauce, and remaining olive oil in small bowl and season with salt and pepper. Transfer potatoes to a large serving bowl, and add dressing. Mix in chopped parsley or cilantro, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve cold or room temp.

When I scrambled the eggs for the tacos last night, I first heated up the pan and refried the potatoes first. Then I added my eggs right to the skillet and scrambled them in with the potatoes. I would venture to say that there is not a bad way to reheat these potatoes, and though I haven't tried it, I think they may caramelize a bit more if you roasted them initially at 400 or even 425 or 450 if you are brave. Next time, my friends. And I'll be sure to let you know.