Sunday, 29 April 2012

Mixed herb and couscous patties with roasted pepper and tomato salsa

I have not always been afraid of anything that comes with a remote possibility of danger. In fact, as a child, I was quite adventurous. I loved to climb onto things like the house roof and up trees. I loved to explore in the forest when we would go camping and I was thrilled by the idea of walking home from a friends house in the dark. I loved water sliding, rides at the fair, haunted houses (okay that one scared me from the start), skiing and air plane rides (imagine!).

It must be, that as I got older, fears would creep in when I would get hurt doing something I previously considered fun. Or maybe hearing stories of other people falling victim to accidents, contributed to the decline in my repertoire of adventurous activities. I remember jumping down a flight of stairs and nearly breaking my foot, getting the wind knocked out of me on a water slide, being on an airplane where the power kept shutting off (it had not taken off yet), and almost throwing up on The Zipper at Buffalo Days.

Growing old and reading the news ruined things like hiking in the back country (bears), snowboarding (head injuries), walking at night (abductions and murders) and even just crossing the street (did you hear about the guy who was killed by a pole that a truck slid into, while standing on the side-walk? How about the guy that went out to get the mail and was crushed by a falling helicopter?)

One of my favorite things to do as a grade-school-aged child was to bike. I remember my fist two-wheeler bicycle. I got it for Christmas one year, at my grandparents. I remember waking bright and early, creeping into the living room and seeing it there, just propped up in front of the Christmas tree. It struck me then that it was unwrapped and of course, unwrapping presents is the most exciting part of Christmas.

My family was very excited to give it to me though, and that excitement soon caught on to me as well. It was pink and white and had these little coloured beads on the rims that would clink up and down the wheel as it turned. It also had training wheels, and I remember being afraid to let those go. I think my dad started by removing them one at a time. I adapted quickly and it was not long before I was biking around farther than I was allowed to. In fact I was grounded a few times for straying too far and going to the local gas station in search of candy.

Eventually I grew older and am sure (although I do not remember the transition) that I had to get a bigger bike. When I was old enough, my best friend Rachelle and I, would bike around the neighbourhood every day. Most times we would bike to the library where I remember spending a big part of my child hood. We would read magazines, Fear Street books and all sorts of other pre-teen novels that I still remember fondly. We would spend entire evenings there, not leaving until the lights where turned off, just before the doors would get locked behind us.

The moral of my story is that having a bike was just a natural part of my life as a kid and teenager that I never really thought about. Somehow though, eventually, I just stopped riding a bike for years until I moved here to Vancouver. For the first few years I was in Vancouver I had a mountain bike that did not work very well. The gears skipped and the brakes rubbed against the wheels. In this hilly city, an inefficient bike makes getting around really difficult. I would often opt to walk or catch the bus instead of riding my bike.

I have been waiting patiently for the day that I would graduate, get a real job and be able to afford a nice road bike. While I was in Winnipeg over Easter, Mike bid on a bike for me, on E-bay, that he assured me would suit me perfectly. On Thursday I took my first ride around my neighbourhood on this fancy new (second hand) road bike. It was night, cold and rainy and riding a road bike is really strange compared to a mountain bike. But, I could not believe how effortless it was to navigate around on this road bike, even uphill. Having a bike I enjoy being on reminds me of my happy childhood memories of independence and adventure. So many happy experiences and explorations are interlinked with the bikes that I had as a child and I am excited for the bike trips to come.

My recipe today is one that I whipped up in my head as I stumbled sleepily into the kitchen, bright and early Saturday morning. I was afraid this drowsy concoction could turn out really awful so was pleasantly surprised when everything came together easily and deliciously. You could add more potato or an egg to make the patties a little more stable but it is not necessary. Also, I kept my salsa extremely simple but you could roast and mix in other vegetables that you want to use up, like onions, asparagus or zucchini. 

Mixed herb and couscous patties with roasted pepper and tomato salsa
Makes 6 patties

Couscous patties
6 mini potatoes (about 1/2 cup pureed)
1/2 cup couscous
Juice from 1 lemon
Shallot, finely chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped herbs (basil, mint, chives and Italian parsley)

Roasted yellow and red pepper and tomato salsa
1/2 cup mini tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped sweet peppers
Extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt
1/2 avocado

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Combine chopped peppers and tomatoes with olive oil, sea salt and crushed garlic.
3. Spread on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and place in the oven. Cook about 20 minutes, mixing once half way through cooking.
4. Meanwhile, cook potatoes in boiling water for 10 minutes.
5. Heat 1/2 cup of water in a separate, small pot.
6. Stir in chopped shallots and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, take off of heat and stir in couscous.
7. Cover couscous and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
8. Drain potatoes when done, and fluff couscous with fork.
9. In a food processor, blend potatoes until a sticky smooth mass.
10. In a large bowl, combine a tablespoon of oil, blended potatoes, couscous, and chopped herbs. Season with sea salt.
11. Form mixture into about 6 x 3" patties. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
12. Bake patties about 8 minutes per side. Do not over cook or the couscous will dry out.
13. Remove roasted vegetables from oven and combine with chopped avocado.
14. If desired, poach eggs while patties are cooking.
15. Serve patties warm with roasted vegetable salsa and if desired, a poached egg seasoned with salt and pepper.

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