Preparing this salad not long after making these cake balls reminded me of something that I had nearly forgotten: my personality is better suited for cooking than baking. I may get scorned for saying this, but baking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in my book. Sure, it’s super fun to sit down and gobble down a few of the treats once they’re baked, but the process of getting there is kind of annoying.
One cup of flour has to be precisely leveled and sifted before it gets dumped into a bowl and creates a microclimate of powdery dust in my kitchen, which then evenly disperses itself onto my floor, my fruit bowl, my cat, and my hair.
The wait time between each daunting step is also problematic. Mix dough. Chill dough for 2 hours. Hand-roll dough into 97 small balls. Chill for 3 hours. Remove dough balls from fridge, sift with flour, and chill for 1 hour. Bake floured dough balls for 115 minutes in a Dutch oven while waving a sprig of lavender to-and-fro. Remove lavender-scented cookies from oven and let cool for 47 minutes in a room heated to 85°F with 40% humidity. Enjoy! That “enjoy!” always seems so snide after spending all that time chilling, baking, and waving to-and-fro.
And sugar, don’t even get me started on those gritty little granules. Once you’ve knocked a 5-lb bag of that stuff off your counter and onto your floor you’ll have a better sense of where I’m coming from. Fortunately, that incident occurred in my parents’ kitchen (sorry, mom!); however, I still had the pleasure of enduring 28 day’s worth of sticky feet.
Perhaps, then, it’s my clumsiness that has provided me with a bias toward cooking. Cooking affords the clumsy-at-heart a glimmer of hope in the kitchen. Cooking is about using prediction to take chances. If I dump 1 cup of cayenne pepper in that sauce, I bet it will be too spicy. I’ll go for 1 tablespoon then. It’s about using the precision of the eyeball method to accurately measure. That looks like a “dash”… It’s about making something, tasting it, and deciding it needs two more ingredients to be perfect. That sauce is decent but it needs lemon and rosemary to be delicious. Now, I’ve gone ahead and adhered to the three aforementioned methods while baking, and it simply doesn’t work. If you take a wild guess, eyeball an amount, and add ingredients in after a cake is baked, you will end up with dog treats.
So, while it has (with much practice) been possible for me to bake tasty treats like Lemon-Mascarpone Cake Balls in my kitchen, my heart is devoted to cooking. It’s funny because I consider myself to be a very patient, tolerant, and go-with-the-flow kinda gal, but baking really pushes those qualities to the brink with me. I will happily slave over one batch of marinara for hours because it becomes my own, personal adventure. I guess I just like room to be creative (read: clumsy). Room that baking, at least in my experience, rarely affords me since I’m usually only good enough to follow a recipe. All this being said, if you’re a good baker, maybe we can exchange services? I’ll cook; you chill, sift, sugar, and work that magic in the oven.
All these words just to say that being able to guess, eyeball, and add ingredients as an afterthought allowed me to create this flavorful herbed cous cous salad…
Herbed Cous Cous Salad (Serves 4)
Blissful Basil Recipe
◊ 1 1/3 cups dry Israeli cous cous*
◊ 1 tbsp olive oil
◊ 1 3/4 cups hot water
◊ 2 small Persian cucumbers, diced into small wedges
◊ 8 cherry tomatoes, quartered
◊ 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
◊ 2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
◊ 3 scallions, sliced (include both white and light green parts)
◊ 4 oz block feta cheese, hand-crumbled
◊ Juice of 1 lemon
◊ 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
◊ 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
◊ 1 tbsp chopped shallot
◊ sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1. Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cous cous and toast for 5 minutes or until cous cous pearls are golden in color. Add in the hot water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 12 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and cous cous is tender.
2. While cous cous is cooking, add cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, basil, and scallions to a large serving bowl.
3. Make dressing by whisking all ingredients together and seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste.
4. Allow cooked cous cous to cool before adding to veggies. When ready, add cous cous to serving bowl and mix to incorporate with vegetables.