Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend. I took advantage of the sunny weather yesterday by going to Revere Beach with my good friend Steph, who is also my “foodie mentor.” I think we talked about food and recipes for at least 2 hours yesterday! Steph has an amazing combination of frugality and innate culinary talent that allows her to make the most out of every single ingredient she comes in contact with – no wastefulness ever for her. I hope to learn from this, because I am guilty far too often of letting things go to waste, or throwing out unused ingredients that I don’t know what to do with. Because our beach trip was a little last minute, she told me she barely had anything in the house to pack for a lunch, yet lo and behold managed to scrounge up the makings for a gourmet picnic – open faced goat cheese and fig sandwiches (with fresh chives and rosemary from her garden chopped up in the cheese) on top of slices of bakery-fresh olive bread. Plus, homemade almond amaretto biscotti and lemonade. Amazing!

I got home from the beach feeling inspired, and rummaged through my pantry, looking for unused ingredients that I could throw together. I ended up making a beautiful Israeli Couscous pilaf with chopped apricots and pistachios that served as my lunch today, on top of a bed of baby spinach greens. Israeli Couscous are bigger, chewier cousins of the standard couscous, and I love the texture! I cooked the couscous according to the package directions and added:

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp cumin

½ cup of chopped apricots (which had been languishing in the back of my shelf)

½ cup of shelled pistachios

Juice from 1 lime

A few sprigs of chopped fresh mint

All of this was sautéed in about 2 tbsps of olive oil. It was super-simple and made for a delicious and exotic-tasting lunch. My frugal gourmet buddy would definitely be proud. I’m thinking this will also make a great side dish with some roasted vegetables and chicken later in the week.

 Do you have any tips for whipping up a gourmet dish, using what you have around the house? I’d love to hear!

– Jean