Once I moved to Kansas City, it didn’t take long for my friend to convince me to give online dating a shot. All my friends here are married—so married that they didn’t know any single guy friends to set me up with. I work from home, too, so I wasn’t meeting eligible bachelors at my nonexistent office. The only guys knocking on my door were from UPS, USPS or FedEx.
One evening, I conceded that none of the delivery guys were my soulmate and that maybe my insistent friend had a point. I poured myself a glass of wine and found myself setting up a profile on an online dating site. I poured another glass and worked up the courage to upload a photo. To my pleasant surprise, messages started flooding into my inbox. Some were sweet, some made me laugh, several were offensively forward (looking at you, BeefCake79), and others were so laden with grammatical errors that I couldn’t take them seriously. Although I dismissed the vast majority of them, I was quite flattered by them all.
I agreed to go out for a beer with a guy who seemed nice and cute, but came home feeling jittery and awkward. I called my best guy friend and we declared, “Next!” After another date, I realized that online dating is a lot like shopping for shoes online. You never quite know what you’re dealing with until you see them in real life and try them on for fit.
I started going on coffee shop dates just for an excuse to get out of the house. I called up my guy friend after each one to share observations. Such as, 5 feet 10 inches online is a lot more like 5 feet 8 inches in real life. Not smiling in pictures? Crooked teeth. Looong paragraphs under the “about me” section? Narcissism confirmed, steer clear.
December rolled around, and I was about ready to give up on this online dating thing. Then a picture of a most handsome fellow with his most fluffy mutt popped up on my screen. He seemed pretty great “on paper”—a free thinker, former vegetarian, home coffee roaster. I decided to play it cool, to let him know I visited and see if he messaged me first. Ba-ding! He complimented my weakness for bacon and we wrote back and forth for a week.
We made plans to meet at the art museum. I was nervous because I’d never enjoyed writing to anyone so much before. I was running a few minutes late, of course, so I hurried over to the gift shop to look for him. He smiled and said, “Hey,” and I knew I was done with online dating right then. He opened up a kids’ book to show me a life-sized photo of a llama. I laughed, and he was done. We explored the photography exhibit we’d come to see—Terry Evans’ heartland retrospective. Then we wandered around the museum until they wouldn’t let us wander around any more, and the days we’ve spent together since have been a blur of smiles and wagging tails. Cheesy, yeah, but also all sorts of wonderful.
This couscous recipe is courtesy of a sweet reader named Enid. She emailed me months ago and I filed her recipe away for winter. The couscous is a quick, light meal or side dish that you can make with pantry ingredients. I was afraid some of the ingredients might be hard to find, but was happy to find whole wheat couscous at Trader Joe’s, and ume vinegar at the health store for under three dollars. Ume vinegar is a plum vinegar with a pretty pink hue that balances out the sweetness of the orange juice and dried apricots. Once I saw the bottle, I realized I’d seen it at several stores, so I hope you don’t have trouble finding it.
I couldn’t resist tinkering around with the recipe just a bit, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t perfect as is. I added a carrot, since I had one and it seemed like a good idea. I misread her instructions to finely dice the onion and thinly sliced it instead, but my handsome fellow and I enjoyed the way it turned out regardless.
Orange, Apricot and Carrot Couscous
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 4
- Category: Salad
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
A quick couscous salad featuring a delicate balance of sweet, crunchy and tangy winter flavors. Be sure to have your ingredients prepped before you set the pot on the stove to start boiling, because once that happens, this salad comes together very quickly.
- 1 cup whole-wheat couscous
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 teaspoons ume plum vinegar
- sea salt
- 10 dried apricots, thinly sliced (about ⅓ cup)
- 2 tablespoons dried currants or raisins
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- ¼ medium-sized red onion, finely sliced or diced (about ½ cup)
- 1 medium carrot
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- Pour couscous into a medium-sized bowl and set aside. In a small pot, combine water, orange juice, olive oil, 4 teaspoons vinegar and a pinch of sea salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the dried fruit and ginger. Let simmer for about 1 minute.
- After a quick stir, pour the liquid mixture over the dry couscous. Stir just to eliminate any pockets of dry couscous. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrot into ribbons over the couscous, then cover the concoction with a plate or tea towel to trap the heat.
- The couscous will cook by itself in about 15 to 20 minutes. In the meantime, rinse the sliced onion under running water and then toss it with 1 teaspoon vinegar in a small bowl to mellow the flavor. In a small pan over medium heat, toast the pine nuts until lightly golden and fragrant, tossing frequently to prevent burning.
- When the couscous is cooked, fluff it with a fork, then mix in the onion and pine nuts. Serve warm or chilled.
Recipe adapted from Enid’s orange couscous.
Make it nut free: Simply omit the pine nuts.