Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ladies who lunch...

I thought I hated couscous salad.

When I was a mini-chantel, my mom went through a couscous phase (which followed a tabbouleh phase). It put me off both for years. But this summer it seems like every magazine I read has a recipe for Couscous Salad, and they all look so tasty that I wondered whether I should try it again.

In the midst of considering this, I went to do a TV interview for my book. While sitting in the green room, I met this super funny, smart and savvy chef, caterer and spokesperson for Dominion named Jenna Wilson. So I asked her if Couscous Salad was making a comeback. She told me it was, because it's such an easy salad for summer BBBQs and get togethers. Easy? Maybe easy for her -- a trained chef -- but for me? Not likely. I didn't want to believe her but she seemed so genuine and knowledgeable and inspiring that when I got home from the interview I decided to attempt the salad. The result? It was one of the easiest salads I've ever made and it was so tasty that I ate it for three days straight! Plus, you don't actually need a recipe. You can just add whatever ingredients you like. Note: I also realized that it wasn't the couscous I disliked, but the parsley and coriander that is usually in it (which is also in tabbouleh and which I omitted from my recipe). It only took me 15 years to figure it out.

Then, the day after I made the couscous, I received an email from Jenna, offering to cater a lunch for me and my coworkers! I had made a lunch date with a girlfriend and freelancer for Friday afternoon, so instead of meeting at our usual - Spring Rolls - we took Jenna up on her offer and had a catered lunch on my patio in the sun.

On the morning of the lunch date, the meal arrived by delivery, perfectly presented on white square plates, wrapped, with condiments, so that all I had to do was pour the cocktails, set out the silverware and sit back. Jenna even included adorable menus on her letterhead so we could follow along with the meal. Here's what she served up:

Baby Arugula/Toasted Walnuts/Port Poached Apples/Walnut Vinaigrette...

Seared Rainbow Trout with Peruvian Blue Potatoes (so cute!)
Ontario Asparagus, Oven Roasted Grape Tomato and Roasted Fennel Slaw...

Fresh fruit platter with cherries, blueberries, raspeberries, strawberries and melon...

Everything was so pretty yet so flavourful that we just felt like we were living someone else's life -- like, say, the life of a woman who doesn't have to work and gets to eat a three-course meal for lunch that includes blue potatoes! The best part of all, though, was that it was so relaxed and that I didn't have to spend hours in the kitchen cooking. (And, that when we were finished, I slipped the dirty dishes in the dishwasher then left them with my concierge the following day and Jenna's driver picked them up!).

If you're thinking, "But I LIKE to cook..." (I can't really relate)... Jenna's got you covered: in addition to catering, she teaches super fun all-girls cooking classes out of her studio. The next one is on July 21 at 2 pm and the theme is Outdoor Eats (aka Picnics). And yes, there will be cocktails while you're cooking!

To get on Jenna's mailing list for more course updates and catering options, email her at


christina campbell said...

You're the perfect gal for non-recipe recipes. Since you're not one for measuring before you cut when you're sewing, this isn't really much different. We could have a grand ol' granola potluck one with my bean salad and you with your couscous. All you need is a pair of Birkenstocks and we're good to go. :)

chantel simmons said...

Yes, but we BOTH know what happens when I don't measure when I sew - DISASTER!

I'll only come to your granola potluck if you make your granala - so tasty!

Can I wear pompom socks with my Birks?

Gabriella said...

Wow. That meal looks delicious to a good food deprived girl like me ;)

Laural Dawn said...

I love couscous salad, but you're right - you have to omit certain traditional things. My mom makes it with craisins and a few other things. It is really good.
And, any recipe where you don't have to measure is fantastic. And, besides, you feel super gourmet when you say "oh - I just added a pinch of this and a pinch of that."
PS Cocktails at lunch?? Clearly your office is way more relaxed than mine.