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Hello.

Welcome to the weeks of training for my first marathon.

Couscous Bowl

Couscous Bowl

We're almost halfway through our training!  We did a shorter, 9 mile weekend run last Saturday from Fort Mason across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. I feel very lucky to live in such a picturesque city, it makes looking for places to run really easy. 

My favorite way of eating is family style.  It makes the meal so much more of social event--trying different dishes sharing what you liked or disliked about each--I love that.  But the true gem here is that I get to try a bunch of different things without committing to eating the entire portion of each.  It's especially fun when you go out with a group of friends to a new restaurant.  Try it!  

I think that's why I love making bowls so much--smoothie bowls, rice bowls, yogurt bowls--you name it.  I like the variety.  And I like the way all the different flavors and textures meld together. Each bite is a different experience. 

Earlier this month, I found a little fast-casual, mediterranean restaurant near my office.  They had these incredibly flavorful couscous bowls with chicken, falafel, and dozen other toppings from hummus to red cabbage slaw.  I was hooked.  I wished that Alex could try this place but my office is out of the way for us on the weekends.  The only viable option was to recreate the experience at home!  

My version is missing the falafel.  I've never fried anything and am honestly intimidated by cooking food in vats of hot oil.  I leave that to the pros.  I promise that this is still very satisfying texturally, not to mention flavorful.  But if you're brave enough to fry falafel, it's a worthwhile addition.  

There are a lot of components to making this bowl, but you can prepare a few of these ingredients a day ahead and reheat when you're ready to compile your bowls.  It depends on how ambitious you are about preparing everything the same day.  They're delicious both ways, day of or made ahead, but making some of these a day ahead give the flavors a chance to marry and relieve some franticness in the kitchen.  

Couscous Bowl

Makes 2 servings but is easily multiplied 

Ingredients:
1 c Israeli couscous
2 c water
1 ear corn
1/2 beetroot, grated
1/4 cup garbanzo beans
1 tsp za'tar
Parsley for garnish (optional)

S'hug:
1 Scallion
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 tbs crushed red chili flakes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt

Eggplant + Tomato Stew:
1 medium sized Italian eggplant
1 14oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 small white onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp raw sugar
Kosher salt to taste

Chicken Thighs:
2 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1/4 plain, whole milk Greek yogurt
2 tsp ground cumin
1 clove grated garlic
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Broccolini:
1 bunch broccolini, cut into 1-1 1/2 in pieces
2 wheels of lemon, quartered
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1 day ahead (optional, if you're feeling ambitious, these can also be made day of):
S'hug:
In a food processor or nutribullet, put all of your ingredients for s'hug in and blend until smooth 2-3 minutes.  Add olive oil as needed.  Set aside. 

Eggplant + Tomato Stew:
Cut your eggplant into steak fry shape--about 1/2 thick, 2 inches long.  Put your eggplant "steak fries" in a colander and generously salt to draw out the moisture.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes.  

Meanwhile, heat a small pot over medium heat.  Dice your onion and chop your garlic.  
Coat the bottom of your pot with olive oil and throw in your chopped onions.  Allow to sweat over medium heat for 10 minutes or until translucent.  Add garlic and continue to sweat for an additional 5 minutes or until garlic becomes fragrant.  Adjust heat as needed.  

Rinse eggplant and add to your small pot.  Add a pinch of salt and cumin. Allow eggplant to cook for about 10-15 minutes.  Add your can of tomatoes and cover with lid.  Allow stew to come to a boil.  Add cumin, sugar, and another little pinch of salt.  Turn heat down to simmer and allow to simmer for about 30-45 minutes or until eggplant becomes soft.  

Chicken:
In a small bowl, mix all your ingredients together except chicken thighs.  Place chicken into a zip top bag and pour yogurt mixture over top.  Massage the chicken until completely coated with the marinade.  Allow to marinade for 1 hour on the countertop (if you're doing this the day of) or overnight in the fridge (if you're doing this step the day before).  On the day of, heat a shallow pan on medium-high with enough olive oil to coat the bottom.  Add your chicken thighs.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side and allow to rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.  

Day of:
In a small pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Once at a boil, add a generous pinch of salt and add couscous. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook covered, until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 2 – 3 minutes. Fluff gently with a fork.  

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat for about 3-5 minutes, put your corn on the cob in the dry skillet and turn the heat down to medium.  Rotate the corn periodically until each side gets a nice char.  Remove from skillet and let cool.  Once cool, get a large serving bowl and place a short glass in the center.  Stand the corn on the glass and cut the kernels away from the core.  Set aside. 

In the same skillet, add about 1 tbs of olive oil or enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add broccolini in one even layer and let alone to char for 2-3 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Using tongs, turn the broccolini and add your lemon slices.  Char for another 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.  

Reheat your eggplant stew.  Meanwhile, grate your beetroot and pop open a can of garbanzo beans.  

Time to assemble!  

Grab two bowl and fill with desired amount of couscous.  Going around your bowl, add grated beetroot, large spoonful of eggplant + tomato stew, spoonful of charred broccolini, spoonful of garbanzo bean (sprinkle with za'tar--you can actually garnish the entire bowl with za'tar if you wanted), heaping spoonful of charred corn, spoonful of s'hug, and sliced chicken thigh in the center.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and enjoy!

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