I learned a surprising life lesson while creating a Fresh & Co. sandwich-inspired meal. Initially I was thrilled to take on the challenge just because it sounded fun, but after I created the dishes I realized that we become more creative when we have constraints. It is a bit counter intuitive. One would think that creativity requires freedom to do and try anything. However, if asked to solve a problem with unlimited resources and time, we would probably just pick the first thing that comes to mind–the same thing that everyone else would think of. Or it could go the other direction, and we would never settle on a solution because we are overwhelmed by all of the possibilities. But if we apply constraints, we are forced to explore options out of our norm.
And so I was able to try something new with each of the dishes that I created for this series. In a way, taking inspiration from Fresh & Co. sandwiches could be viewed as a limitation. Just as a glass half full and a glass half empty are the same thing. Personally, I prefer my glass half full with chocolate milk.
Appetizer: Steak Crisps with Caper Aioli inspired by the Grilled Steak and Fontina Crisp Panini Melt
Entrée: Lemon Dill Roasted Chicken inspired by the Lemon Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Side: Greek Feta Couscous inspired by the Greek Feta & Tomato Baguette Sandwich
While in college, I often made a simple Israeli couscous dish with just onions and chicken broth. It was cheap, tasty and filling just like spaghetti. And just like spaghetti, couscous is a pasta made of semolina (wheat). Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, is larger and toasted giving the hearty pasta a nutty flavor. Cook this like you would rice pilaf or risotto; start by toasting the pearls in a pan then add liquid that will be completely absorbed.
For our sandwich-inspired side dish, I needed something starchy and hearty enough to stand up to roasted chicken. Roasted chicken is succulent, but not exactly the most complex in terms of flavor…so the side could be bright and briny without butting heads with the entrée. As an added bonus, this Greek Feta Couscous can be served lukewarm. If you entertain with this menu, you can make your side before the guests arrive and mingle with them over appetizers while the chicken roasts in the oven.
I really like the combination of tomatoes and feta in the Fresh & Co. baguette. This is a classic pairing similar to spinach and feta. I suggest that you try the Roasted Tomato, Feta and Rocket Quiche from Life’s a Feast. Absolutely delicious! A great way to get your creative juices flowing is to see how many ways you can prepare tomatoes and feta. I am sure it would be fantastic on flatbread, in tacos, or as a stew. See how creative you can get by adding just a few constraints! As for me, I am determined to create a dish using only condiments in the near future. You might even see me rifling through the condiment counter at your local Fresh & Co. In the mean time, check out the Fresh & Co. blog this Thursday to see my video in the fourth post of this series!
Photo courtesy of Fresh & Co.
Greek Feta Couscous
1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
3 scallions, sliced into small rounds with green and white parts separated
1 cup roughly chopped arugula
12 olives, rinsed and finely chopped
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon juice
pinch freshly ground black pepper
In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the white part of the scallions and saute 30 seconds.
Add the couscous and cook about 3 minutes until slightly brown, stirring frequently.
Add the olives and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer uncovered until all of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally and scraping up the couscous at the bottom of the pan.
Remove the couscous from the heat, and while it is still hot mix in the arugula so that it wilts. Add the tomatoes, feta, and green parts of the scallions.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients then pour over the couscous. Mix to combine.