“Always remember to look up and down.”
A friend’s advice after I’d just arrived certainly rang true. Upon exploration of my new surroundings I found restaurants stacked four tall and neon-illuminated stairwells that led to karaoke heaven. Born and reared in a nation never short on space, this was a new concept. Big box super marts housing just over seventeen area codes weren’t all that shock-inducing. Sprawl was a luxury I’d taken for granted.
I admired the Korean ability to make efficient use of the space available. When it came to homegrown produce, nearly everyone had a personal stockade of plants. Whether the pots lined an apartment overhang or lettuce sprouted just between the highway and the on-ramp, every vacant patch was teeming with life.
Along my morning commute, I’ve noticed a bloom of plants that’s intrigued me. Bearing a striking resemblance to the purchased-then-killed mint plants of failed garden endeavors, I gave it a whiff last spring. Dismissing the notion, I wrote it off as a bountiful dream. The other day, for whatever reason, I decided to give it another sniff. This time I was certain–mint it was! My technical pruning knowledge quickly flew out the window. I tugged and ripped like a mad-woman, anxious to fill my purse. Buzzing off the menthol, my mind was on repeat–tabouleh, mojitos, freshhhh freshhhh>REPRISE tabouleh, mojitos, fresh fresh freshhhh…
When I found myself at home with my harvest, I figured it was time to determine a use. Realizing I was packing heat with a red onion (also a hot commodity), I settled on an old stand-by. A version of tabouleh, I found this recipe a few years ago in Cooking Light. Its fresh ingredients and filling protein provide all the summer satisfaction one could dream of. I had to do without my favorite part, the golden raisins, but it was still delicious. I tried substituting regular, but it just wasn’t the same.
Moral of the story? A second opinion is worth a million bites.
From Cooking Light, October 2008
1/2 cup dried black lentils (Or any variety, I used green)
5 cups water, divided
3/4 cup uncooked couscous
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/3 cup finely chopped cucumber
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Rinse lentils with cold water; drain. Place lentils and 4 cups water in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain.
2. Bring remaining 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; gradually stir in couscous and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Combine lentils, couscous, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, tomatoes, and remaining ingredients in a large bowl.
Yield: 6 1-cup servings
***For questions about where to find the ingredients in Korea, check out the new Ingredient Guide!***