Say Goodbye to Summer & Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts

How did it happen? Suddenly it’s the end of summer. Look around and you can see all the telltale signs that summer is almost over. The nights are cool and the mornings crisp. A few leaves on the swamp maple across the road have turned a rusty red. Back-to-school sales are on in full force. Even the summer Olympics are over. Team USA will be back ready to win again in London in 2012, but for now they have swum their last race, shot their last put and hurdled their last hurdle.

For some unknown reason it’s always a shock when Labor Day arrives. Sure, we know it’s coming but every year we are surprised by how quickly it gets here. Why it seems like just a few days ago it was the 4th of July. Boats decked out in red, white and blue were parading on the lake, kids were lined up to take their raft tests and all the fun of summer was ahead of us. Then all of a sudden our calendars aren’t filled with beach parties, sand castle contests and swims to the island, but with the end of summer beach clean up and cookout. Throughout the holiday weekend there will be a mad scramble up and down the lake to get boats and rafts out of the water and docks secured for the winter. Beach balls will be deflated and packed away with sand chairs, water skis and life preservers.

All around Pleasant Lake families are already starting to pack up and head south. In spite of the spotty cell phone service, reality has started to call and our summer visitors are forced to answer. They must say goodbye to the peace and quiet of the lake and return to the hustle and bustle of bumper-to-bumper traffic and mega malls. My brother and his family have already loaded the car with kids, dogs, oversized duffle bags, backpacks and pink suitcases and returned to Massachusetts. My nieces will spend their final days of summer at sports try-outs and practices. Sure, they may be back for one last day or two, but they have already traded in the lazy days of summer for back-to-school shopping, busy suburban schedules and car pools.

While summer may be waning, the fall promises to be particularly interesting and very busy. While the Olympics may be over the World Series is still ahead of us. The Red Sox have had some ups and downs, can we hope for another championship? If not, well, football is just starting its pre-season.

We can also expect lots of fun and excitement in the political arena this fall. The race for President is heating up, as well as various contests for the Senate and Congress. The Democrats and Republicans are getting ready to convene in Denver and Minneapolis; or is it Saint Paul? Far from the conventions centers, campaign posters are popping up on front lawns throughout our own little town. We may only carry a few electoral votes but New Hampshire takes its elections very seriously. And ever since we became a swing state, well, the candidates seem to take us more seriously too.

Before you say that final goodbye to summer and jump into the reality of a busy fall, I hope that you can squeeze in a few more days of fun in the sun. Whether you choose to play golf or tennis, hike or bike, float or boat or just laze around in the sunshine; enjoy the holiday. The long weekend is a great time to gather your family and friends together for one last summer celebration. Fire up the grill and raise your glasses to toast each other and the last few days of another wonderful summer.

Couscous with Dried Fruit and Pine Nuts
Try this couscous recipe at your holiday weekend cookout. It is sure to please adults and kids alike. Enjoy!
Serves 6

1 1/2 cups couscous
2 cups hot chicken stock
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup dried fruit – raisins, craisins, currents or chopped apricots
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Grated peel of 1 orange
Grated peel of 1 lime
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, sliced thin, white and green parts

Put the stock in a medium sauces pan; bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the cinnamon, allspice, paprika and couscous; stir to combine. Cover and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

Uncover and fluff with a fork. Add the apricots, scallions, pine nuts and orange and lime peel and juice, garlic, mint and parsley; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss to combine.  Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

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©Susan W. Nye, 2010


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