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IMG_5187 - Toasted Couscous Salad with Wilted Swiss Chard & Fennel

I think of an artist as someone who paints, photographs, and creates to be noticed by others.  I guess in my mind, art isn’t art until it is recognized.  At seven, I started drawing horses and over time I got really good at it.  I suppose I studied the horse next door, looked at books, and used my memory from tv (what else could you do before the days of the internet?), but after some practice I knew how to draw a horse from memory.

I remember first being noticed when my cousin told our friends how good of a horse I could draw.  It felt really good to be recognized.  In fourth grade I won first place in a drawing contest.  In junior high I won a local contest at the Biosphere and had the opportunity to visit.  In eighth grade I won another contest and my art was displayed in the school office.  I continued to draw and paint, but the recognition shifted to the math and sciences and my ability to analyze the world around me.

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In the shift I convinced myself that I had a technical and analytical mind, and though that was partially true I was covering up the fact that I wanted to be recognized and my math and science mind easily achieved that.  I was choosing to be recognized, to have great achievements and in doing so I lost a part of myself.

This time right now is another shift for me.  It is to develop discipline, to practice my craft when no one is looking, to be thankful for praises but not let it go to my head, and to recognize that I have gifts that I can be proud to give the world.

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This salad was developed when no one was looking.  I had a dinner to attend and chose to make something from what I had on hand.  Luckily I had many veggies and grow fennel in my garden.  The idea for the toasted couscous was from local kitchen, a beautiful blog focused on local cooking in New York’s Hudson Valley. I love her ability to throw together seasonal ingredients and make something beautiful.  The dried and fresh fennel really make this salad!

I adapted this recipe from a Love a fare to wilt the Swiss Chard.

Note: If you don’t have fresh fennel and don’t want to waste the bulb and stalks, consider substituting the fresh fennel fronds for dill.  I have not tried this myself, but they seem to be used together in many recipes.

Ingredients 

    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • 2 small shallots, finely diced
    • 4 small fennel fronds, chopped
    • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 cup Israeli Couscous
    • 1/2 tsp dried fennel seeds
    • 1/8 tsp dried chili
    • 3-4 large Swiss Chard leaves with stems
    • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
    • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
    • 1/4 cup parsley leaves
    • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 400º F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. In a medium bowl combine the red pepper, 1 shallot, leaves of 1 fennel frond, 1 Tbs olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Spread the mixture onto the parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes, until tender, tossing every 5 minutes.
    3. Bring 2 cups water to boil in a medium sized pan.
    4. Meanwhile in a large saute pan over medium-low heat add the couscous, dried fennel seeds and dried chili.  Stir frequently until the couscous is golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  When the water comes to a boil, transfer the couscous to the pan of boiling water.  Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes until al dente.
    5. Drain the couscous and rinse immediately in cold water.  Leave the couscous in the strainer while prepping the remaining ingredients.
    6. Chop the Swiss Chard stems into 1 inch pieces and set aside.  Chop the leaves large pieces about 2 inches square.
    7. In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers.  Add 1 shallot and saute until golden.  Add the Swiss chard stems and saute for 1 minute.  Add the red wine vinegar until fully incorporated.  Turn off the heat and add the Swiss chard on top.  Mix thoroughly and cover with a lid until the chard wilts. stiring occasionally.
    8. In a large bowl, combine the roasted red pepper, wilted chard with vinegar, red onion, parsley leaves, and remaining fennel fronds.  Shake the couscous to remove any remaining water and mix with the greens.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
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