Thursday, June 7, 2012

Green fusion couscous

I think the reason why I love my neighborhood is that it is culturally pretty diverse for Italian standards.

My daughter has been lucky enough to spend her first years with a tight-knit group of friends with parents from several continents, exposing her from the start to different religions and traditions. Just as an example, one of her oldest friends is half American, just like her. Our neighbors and good friends are from Argentina. Her favorite playmate is a girl from the Philippines and there are children from all over the world in both our children's classes.

This may be a given in many countries but it is still a novelty in Italy. This country only recently went from being a country of emigrants to one that welcomes large amounts of immigrants, making diversity a reasonably new concept here, especially in the more gentrified neighborhoods. Many children here are first generation Italians and some just moved recently and are still coming to terms with a new tradition and language.

Sometimes I hear things people say that make me cringe. I realize it is often more the result of not being accustomed or exposed to diversity than an actual feeling of superiority and more often than not the words are said totally unaware, without malice, but it makes me realize we still have a ways to go.

My children and I often talk about being different, because we/they are different. Their mother speaks to them in a foreign language, they do not take religion in school (how about teaching children about the religions of the world to help them understand them and be more tolerant than having an hour dedicated to the Catholic religion, that most children learn about in Sunday school anyway?), their grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins live all over the world and speak a variety of languages.

We have a book full of fun and interesting drawings about different people, different colors and different shapes. Tall people, short, people, big people, thin people. Blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes. Big noses, tiny noses, bumpy noses, freckly noses. Long hair, short hair, curly hair, frizzy hair. Blonde, brown, black, grey, white. Huge ears, wrinkly ears, hairy ears. Some of the men wear pants, others tunics or skirts. Some have short hair, some have long hair. Some wear earrings, some don't. Some women have bare chests, others are covered from head to toe, some have colorful tatoos and shaved heads, others have plates in their lips. 

We are different, different is good, different is important.

Yesterday my daughter told me she heard something someone said to a classmate of hers. It was not outright offensive but she grasped the fine line between funny and hurtful and felt bad for him. This made me happy, because now I know she has the sensitivity to think more about how she communicates with people.

If we all stop to think before we speak, we could avoid a lot of hurt. I do it, we all do it, every day, usually without noticing. We could avoid hurting those we love, our friends, our colleagues, our acquaintances and even and foremost strangers. 

Food is another powerful way to reach out to each other, cross borders and cultures, as Sasha reminds us every day. I try to expose my children to the world's incredible variety through the meals I prepare daily for my family.

This dish is definitely a result of globalization, an example of a fusion dish.

There are ingredients and inspirations from Maghreb, Thailand and Japan in this simple meal. It takes just a few minutes to throw together and is full of vitamins, it is light and extremely tasty. Once again I will be giving you general guidelines because how and what you use is really up to you and your personal taste. The dressing (which I found in an old Donna Hay book) has very little oil in it and to keep things even lighter and healthier I used less couscous (which you can buy whole wheat) and more veggies. Oh, and don't discard the tough stems, I have a recipe coming up for those too!


Ingredients (5 servings)
2 cups couscous
1 large, ripe avocado
2 bushels of asparagus (minus the tough part of stem - do not discard)
Furikake (as much as you like, I used a little over a tbsp)

Thai-inspired dressing
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup soy sauce (I used low sodium)
1 tsp fish sauce
2 chilis (optional, I skipped this for the kids)

To clean your asparagus rinse carefully and snap off the tough ends of the stems. Do not discard, I have a recipe coming up for those. Heat a grill pan and then grill the spears until lightly charred.
Make the couscous following the instructions on the box (I used the instant kind).
While the couscous is resting you can start making the dressing by putting all the ingredients into a jar with a lid and shaking them together until combined. This recipe makes more dressing than you will need, but you can store it in the fridge with its lid for up to a month. It is delicious on pretty much everything, trust me, I tried.
When the asparagus is ready set aside to cool. Then chop into approximately one-inch pieces. Chop the avocado in bite-sized chunks.
Mix the vegetables into the couscous, pour over as much dressing as you like and sprinkle over the furikake.

Last but not least, thank you Manu for your award, you are the best!

Here are 7 facts (do you really want to know them?):

1. tonight I am going to see The Boss live!
2. I have been a fan for more years than I care to say
3. I buy nail polish and then don't wear it
4. I do the same with make up
5. I am reading The Tiger's Wife
6. I have to remind myself constantly to drink water
7. I am getting ready to say goodbye to diapers: am about to start potty training my last!

I pass this award on to:
Feeding Andy (for her new start)
Ztasty life (a reasonably new read)
Twinisms (the girl makes me laugh)
Hotly Spiced (how does she always get a new post up?)
The Girl's Guide to Guns and Butter (a fun and interesting read)
The Little Loaf (an old favorite)
And Baby Cakes Three (another old favorite)


  1. Diversity is so important - in friendships, in food, in life.

    This couscous looks lovely - the kind of thing I often make but I'd never heard of furikake before. Love discovering new ingredients and twists on favourite dishes :-)

    1. I think you can get it pretty easily in any Japanese or Asian store. It is really good, even just to sprinkle in salad or on white rice.

  2. Great post! So true!

    The couscous looks wonderful! Thank you for introducing me to furikake!

  3. Ditto to everything written above! Children also learn tolerance from their parents and yours are especially lucky to have you as a mom! Love the idea of a green couscous, was thinking of a green one as well recently with fava, but asparagus sounds grand too! Looking forward to the next post with info on what to do with the tough stalks!

    1. Fava beans sound delicious too with couscous, thanks for the idea.

  4. I'm blind! Totally missed that you'd included me in this award - thank you so much! For some reason the link comes up grey on my screen rather than blue so I completely missed it :-)

  5. What a wonderful dish, I love asparagus!

    ps I drink constantly water, I try to remind myself not to drink so much of it :)

    1. I would call that a pretty healthy thing to forget!

  6. That's a great dish. I think that flavours would be wonderful. That's great that you are in a part of Italy where there are so many blended cultures - but don't blend too much because when I come to Italy I want to experience the Italians xx

    1. I can totally understand that! I promise, there are plenty waiting her for you! ;o)

  7. Oh, and thanks so much for the award. At first I didn't notice it. That's so kind and generous of you. I often wonder how it is that I'm able to get a post up - I must believe in miracles! I'll look forward to checking out the other blogs you've awarded because most of them are new to me - how exciting! And how exciting that you got to see The Boss live. And I am also guilty of buying nail polish that just sits in a drawer while I go out for a manicure! xx

  8. Another wonderful post, and so on-the-money: Diversity is so important, and yet can be very scary for some people. I think that's where many of those remarks come in, the offensive-but-don't-mean-to-be-offensive jokes, the hesitation to try new things from a new culture. It can be easy to build yourself a cultural cocoon and allow yourself to become afraid of everything outside it.

    Good on your daughter for being sensitive and recognizing the beauty of diversity, and good on you for giving your children the opportunities and enthusiasm needed to explore this great big world and everything it has for us to see and learn! xo

  9. Looks delicious - and your daughter is so lucky to have such wonderful diversity in her life!

  10. Love the freshness of this salad and the sensitivity of your daughter. What a gem.

  11. This dish looks really healthy and flavorful. I noticed the diversity growing a lot in Rome while I lived there, it seems like the children had no choice but to mix and they did so naturally, so hopefully this is a trend that continues, given Italy's negative birth rate- the future is likely to be an Italy full of many colors and cultures!
    Thanks for passing me the award! :)

    1. Yes, given the birth rate, that is for sure. And it is all good.

  12. This recipe looks great. I´ll try to make it, my children´ll love it. Your photos are gorgeous!!!

  13. I want to like couscous. When I have it out, I love it - but whenever I make it, it's gross! Help!

    Thanks for the award:)

  14. Great that you linked this in.


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