It was almost as though the heat waves of July and August were and are mere figments of our imagination, leaving us to wonder whether there will even be any more pool days this year. I know; shudder to think.
I sit here at midnight, looking past the string lights onto the yard filled with banana leaves and hibiscus flowers bigger than my head, and I try to imagine myself back in the islands, with the cool trade winds taking care of any sunburn that I might have gotten in the day. I am a towhead after all and it doesn’t take much for me to go from pink to lobster. In fact, it’s rather instantaneous, and it’s a trait that I have passed on to some of my offspring. I had hoped for brighter pastures for them, but we can’t always pick the tanning chromosomes, can we?
But, back to the task at hand, the trade winds sit still and I do not hear the crushing sounds of waves on lava rock, despite my every effort of pulling in the sound of the 18-wheeler’s as they passes by on 113 a mile from our home. As I put my hoodie on, I realize that “local summer” is only a matter of days away; that brilliant season that we all love when the water is still warm, the storms are brewing off the coast and the beaches are empty.
And the combination of cool sand, warm sun and still-warm water bring me into a mindset of combining of the seasons. First, with the freshness of the seafood that is still being pulled in, and second from the more roasted and toasted flavors of fall, when heartier foods seem to fit the bill.
I haven’t worked with Israeli couscous in a while, and as we make traditional (smaller) couscous from scratch in our culinary program, Israeli couscous is in a class almost to itself. With pearls the size of large tapioca, it truly absorbs the flavors of anything that you are cooking it in.
Toasted and served with some fresh mahi, or dolphinfish, and some splendid green beans, you can’t go wrong with dish on a chilly night like tonight.
I don’t care that I’m 6,000 miles away from “aloha”; it truly is my favorite place on earth. I will relish in my yard, covered in banana leaves and hibiscus, and I will at least truly enjoy closing out this article at 1 a.m.
But as I finish this, I must ask. “Why can I see my breath?”
Seared Mahi on Toasted Israeli Couscous
4 six-ounce portions fresh mahi
Blackening spice, as needed
Good oil or clarified butter, as needed
1. Yes, we are really that limited on the ingredient list on this fish. You don’t need much to make Dolphinfish taste phenomenal
2. Merely pat the mahi dry and season liberally with the blackening spice. Pat it in
3. Heat a pan (cast iron is my favorite) and add the oil
4. Add the fish carefully and cook until it has a nice crust on it. As I’ve seen in the Big Easy many times over, “blackening” does not mean burnt black … to a crisp. Use your judgment
5. Cook for about two minutes and turn over
6. Cook for another two and remove the pan from the heat. The residual heat will continue cooking the fish and keep it hot
7. Serve on the couscous and green beans
Green Beans like a Boss
1 pound fresh, snipped green beans
Garlic butter of your choice (Come on. You can make that!)
Salt and pepper as needed
1. Heat a pot of water large enough to comfortably accommodate the green beans
2. Adding salt just as the water reaches the boil (adding it earlier can cause the nitrates to cause nasty pitting on the bottom of your pricey pan over time), add the beans
3. Cook until they are just under al dente; meaning, they have a nice bite but will survive the further punishment
4. Drain the beans and shock in ice water if cooking later. If not, proceed with step five
5. Add the garlic butter to the pan and sauté the green beans until they are done to your liking
6. Season with salt and pepper as usual, and relish in the fact that something so easy can be so damn good
Toasted Israeli Couscous
2 Tbsp. EV Olive oil
2 cups Dried Israeli Couscous
2 baby carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
10 Fresh, local grape tomatoes, halved
2 cloves, Minced garlic
2 1/2 cups Chicken stock
Squeeze of lemon juice
Fresh herbs, as you see fit
Salt and pepper, as needed
1. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the couscous, carrots, celery, tomatoes and garlic
2. Heat until the couscous and vegetables get a nice, toasty aroma to them
3. Add stock and cook until absorbed
4. Hit with the lemon juice and season to taste