“Did you see that?” I asked Suzen. She was fifteen feet in front of me, as usual. She strolls faster than I do and there can be a gap between us on one of our city walks. Long walks, like 13-20 mile walks along the streets and in the parks of New York City.
Walk that far and you discover things. I was standing in front of a signboard outside a place called Konditori. I’d read something very interesting and I was betting Suzen had missed it.
“No,” she had stopped. “What? I was looking up like you told me.” That was said in a do-not-criticize me tone. Criticism was far, far from my mind. I’m the one who taught her to look up as we walk, beyond the first floor to see the details of windows, walls, signs, and rooftops. There’s a wealth of architectural detail there making each walk a living museum tour.
But, now she looks up all the time and, I must admit, there is detail at the ground level too that she needs to see and absorb. Like this sign at Konditori, which is a Swedish word meaning “confectionary.” In New York, Konditori is a Brooklyn-chain of coffee shops that offers rich baked treats and coffee beverages of all orders.
That signboard announced one of the coffee ideas: straight from Stockholm you can now drink an expresso and tonic water combo.
Suzen walked back towards me and read the sign. Then she looked at me. She’s a gin and tonic girl and I really could not predict how she’d react. She’s very protective of both the gin and the tonic water.
“Sure, I’ll try it.” She sat down in a plastic chair perched on the sidewalk, right next to the sign and pointed to the entrance to Konditori. “Go get one.”
I watched the preparation carefully. One of those tall pint cups was filled with ice, then almost topped off with tonic water [about 12 ounces]. Two shots of espresso were poured on top. The black liquid floated atop the tonic. The barista flicked twice with a spoon and the cup was now uniformly colored in a dense mahogany brown.
I give Suzen the first taste. She sat way back in her plastic chair. The chair squeaked and she took a second and deeper sip. “Who would have thought?” she asked me. Her smile was broad and she extended the cup towards me.
Now, I hate iced coffee. I just don’t like it all. That will never change. But I drank my half of this tonic water and espresso delight with enthusiasm. How can I describe it? It’s surely different, maybe on the verge of being peculiar, and certain to be a staple for us.
Our walk was on a Sunday. Two days later, we had a tall bottle of tonic water in our refrigerator and Suzen has been “doing the Konditori” ever since.
Strange as it might seem, it’s a great beverage idea. Just don’t ask for it at Starbucks, at least not yet. But you can hit them up for two shots and then pour your own tonic water into an ice filled cup. It won’t get you arrested, but you’ll probably get some attention.
Gin is optional.
I don’t remember when I first had couscous, but I remember the emotion: that sad regret that so much time had already passed and now, only now, was I enjoying this incredible food. For me, there is something very sensuous in sampling the little roundish nuggets, soft yet offering a bit of resistance as you bite. And there is the swarm of other flavors in your mouth coming from the herbs or spices, the vegetable pieces, other add in components, and equally important the distinctive quality of whatever broth you have selected.
Couscous is hard to make exactly the same twice in a row. That variation, from ingredients and your evolving technique, make it a just a bit of a mystery treat. Those things called “side dishes” are often treated dismissively. Not so couscous. It will boldly sit on your plate and occupy your attention just as much as the protein, usual fish or chicken, that is nestled against it.
I grew up on baked potatoes 5-7 days a week. Too bad it took a few decades to learn there is life and variety far beyond the potato fields of Oregon and Idaho.
Israeli Couscous with Herbs and Veggies
Yield: serves 4
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1 medium green apple, diced
- 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
- ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted, see Cook’s Note below
- ½ to 1 cup of adornments: green beans, chickpeas, peas, carrot chunks, … [optional]
For the couscous, in a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, dried cranberries/raisins, and almonds.
Add the optional adornments if desired.
Cook's Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350⁰ F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.
Source: Giada De Laurentis
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5 for 1/50th second at ISO‑1250