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Cloudy With A Chance Of Fruit Bats

At o-dark-hundred hours on Monday, the tornado siren went off and we had to go down to the basement in our pajamas.  Our basement is no place for pajamas.  It’s colder than moon rocks down there.  It’s drippy and crickety and smells like wet cardboard and goat.

But Scott gallantly led the way, like he had a plan.

This was a red herring.  He did not have a plan.  Also, he did not have a bunch of tornado supplies down there like I thought he did.

This chart sums up how we did in the disaster preparedness department:

Tornado Checklist

Things We Were Supposed To Have

Things We Actually Had

6 gallons water     →

1 can diet Pepsi and a dog bowl

1 change of clothing & footwear each     →

Scott wasn’t even wearing socks or shoes so he probably has a termite infection of the foot now

2 blankets/sleeping bags     →

1 puppy-sized dog bed

3-day supply of food     →

A bunch of bugs, but Thunder ate them

Tools, flash light, batteries, radio     →

iPhone on 17% power

1 first-aid kit     →

1 tube model glue

1 fire extinguisher     →

whatever’s left in the can of diet Pepsi

Car keys, credit card, cash     →

A box of Christmas ornaments & Scott’s college diploma, framed

There wasn’t much to do except take pictures of Thunder on the iPhone.

She was having a blast.  She was all “Wooohoooo sleep-over camp is awwwwwesome! What activities are we going to do next, guys?”

She did not know we were thinking of confiscating her bone because we humans were hungry and the bone was supposedly chicken-flavored.

After a while, Scott said my photos were draining the battery and he needed it to monitor the weather, but really he was looking to see if anyone would deliver pizza.

This will not shock you as much as it shocked him, but getting pizza delivered to our fight-club-petri-dish-of-a-basement during a tornado alert was a no-go.

Scott was bummed about this until the siren stopped and I made him go upstairs and check himself for the following:

  • ticks
  • fleas
  • fruit bats
  • dysentery

While he did that, I texted PREPARE to 43362 (4FEMA) from Scott’s phone so he’ll receive monthly tornado safety tips via text message.  This is going to annoy him a little until he gets his first daily update from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, at which point he’ll be so mad he’ll want to put his fist through the basement wall.  I’m not worried about it though, because I’m pretty sure the basement wall is made of cardboard.

In conclusion, since I’ll probably get stuck eating canned sardines, canned corn and model glue in a small, unventilated space this spring, let’s cook fresh while we can, eh?

This is Israeli cous cous seasoned with lemon and thyme, flavored with some crumbled feta, and–if you like–tossed with poached salmon.

You start by cooking these large pearls of Israeli cous cous in broth and lemon zest, and then you add some thyme and lemon juice.

The feta brings the salt and some creaminess, and the salmon is a perfectly matched protein.  It’s lovely for a luncheon or a delicate dinner.

You can skip the salmon if you’re not a fan. (The dish without salmon is pictured below.)

Alternatively, you could serve a full piece of the salmon on the side, but I like to flake it up and toss it in warm.

Israeli Cous Cous with Salmon, Feta, Lemon & Thyme

Ingredients: (serves 2 as a meal, about 4 as a side dish)

1 c. Israeli cous cous

1/2-3/4 lb. salmon (1 fillet)

1/4 c. white wine (optional, for poaching)

1 1/4- 1 1/3 c. chicken broth (Depending on how much water the label on your brand of cous cous says to add.  I prefer low-sodium broth, because feta is salty.  You can substitute a vegetarian broth.)

1 tbsp. butter

1 tsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. fresh thyme

3/4 c. feta cheese, crumbled

3 lemons (for 2 tbsp. lemon peel, and 2-3 tbsp. lemon juice}

hearty dash of pepper


In a pan with a tight lid, put 1/4 c. water and 1/4 c. white wine (or a total of 1/2 c. water if not using wine).  You can throw in a sprig of thyme if you like.  Bring the pan to a simmer over medium heat.

Place the salmon skin-side down in the pan and cover tightly.  Simmer for about 10 minutes, until salmon is a matte rose color and is cooked through.  (Exact cooking time will depend on the thickness of your cut of salmon, and salmon will continue to poach until it’s cool.  Check doneness by peeling back a section with a fork.)  Transfer salmon to a plate and discard the liquid and thyme in the pan.

Prepare the lemon peel by zesting the lemons with a zester or a grater.   If using a zester that cuts long curls of peel, chop the peel roughly so that the pieces are not an inch long.

Check the instructions on your canister of cous cous to see how much water to boil 1 c. cous cous in.  It should be between 1 1/4 c. and 1 1/3 c., depending on the brand. You will be using that much broth instead of water.

In a small pot, also with a tight-fitting lid, bring the chicken broth and butter to a boil.  Add the cous cous and the lemon peel, stir, and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cover the pot (this is important.)

Let simmer for about 7-8 minutes, stirring every few minutes (re-covering with the lid each time).

While the cous cous is simmering, prepare the thyme.  The leaves will come off the stem if you drag your fingers from the top of the stem to the bottom, against the grain of the plant’s growth.

The cous cous is done after about 7 minutes, when it has absorbed the chicken broth.  Taste to confirm cous cous is al dente or softer, if desired.

Immediately transfer cous cous to a bowl and toss with the olive oil.  Add the thyme, lemon juice, feta, and a generous dash or two of pepper.

Remove the skin from the bottom of the salmon with a butter knife and break the salmon up into flakes according to the natural grain of the fish.  Add the salmon to the cous cous.  Adjust seasonings, especially the lemon juice, to taste.

Serve warm.

Still recovering from the excitement of camp.

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52 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lady Sisyphus #

    I’ve never heard of Israeli couscous. Now I know! I am glad the diploma was framed and hope all potential infections have been avoided. Thunder is such a cutie and very photo-friendly. Can’t wait to try the recipe. Thanks!

    January 24, 2012
    • Hello there!

      I like Israeli cous cous so much more than the smaller pearls of cous cous. You should find it in the grocery store next to the boxes of the regular stuff. It reminds me of acini di pepe–those little pastas. I have better luck cooking it, too– sometimes when I cook the smaller grains of cous cous, they clump up or don’t absorb all the water. Israeli cous cous is more trusty that way, in my experience.

      Take care, and thanks again!

      January 24, 2012
  2. My tornado checklist involves trying to fall into a deep sleep so I won’t freak out that I live in an upstairs condo with no basement access & a bathtub with a door on it so I can’t pull a mattress over it and hide until the tornadoes go away. In short, I’m screwed.

    January 24, 2012
    • My bathtub has a door on it too and I hate it but I’ve never been able to articulate why. Now I know– it’s totally the mattress problem. Also, I have always wanted to turn a bathtub into a fish tank or a table. How awesome would that be? To put fish in there and glass on top, and use it as a coffee table? Am interior decorating genius.

      January 24, 2012
  3. LOVED this. I am so glad you survived this experience so you could write about it for all of us to enjoy!

    January 24, 2012
  4. Glad you are safe and Thunder had fun
    This past year having newly relocated to Florida I also had to figure out Hurricane supplies – which consisted of me buying a bunch of canned things, trail mix and a weather radio – which was apparently vital and I have yet to use
    Not having a basement I was faced with the very real possibility of me, my son and four dogs hiding in the closet since it was the only room without windows…
    Fortunately this did not come become necessary since the lack of space for said hurricane supplies in there may have forced us to eat one of the dogs….

    January 24, 2012
    • I need to check if we get reception on our ipod radios in the basement, because otherwise I think we might need a weather radio as well. Yikes, I hope you fare okay during hurricane season. I was just saying that living near water would freak me out at times like this, but then again, you get fresh strawberries all year down there, don’t you? You should do a recipe for hurricane trail mix!

      January 24, 2012
      • The weather radio has batteries, a power cord and a hand crank so you are covered for all eventualities – not sure if it is waterproof though – although it would be an epic fail if it wasn’t….
        I shall invent a recipe for either trail mix or deep fried dog in time for next hurricane season LOL

        January 24, 2012
  5. Angie #

    I forget you guys are Alabama tornado-rookies! Call me next time the sirens go off, and I’ll tell you if you need to hit the basement. The other night the tornado was miles and miles away — the kitties and I stayed in bed!

    January 24, 2012
  6. Thanks, Angie! Yeah, when we got on google it seemed like it wasn’t going to be an issue except for “the extreme southeast of the county.” Why do they make the sirens go off in Huntsville, then? It sounded like ALIENS. It was one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard, and I once went to a two-hour ancient pipe organ concert.

    January 24, 2012
  7. a #

    You mean we’re supposed to have supplies in the basement? Well, we do store our spare cases of bottled water there (I guess my husband actually keeps them for emergencies, and then rotates the bottles up to be used every few months), and that’s where the too-good-of-a-sale-to-pass-up cereal lives. I guess we’re set. On the other hand, sirens go off around our house all the time, but only once have I felt the need to go down to the basement. Here’s the clue…you know how all those people on TV who survive the tornado say “It sounded like a freight train”? When the wind sounds like a freight train, it’s time to hit the basement.

    January 24, 2012
    • You touch on so many good points that I don’t know where to start. Scott actually says it’s my fault we don’t have supplies in the basement because I “go through water and diet Pepsi and toilet paper” at supersonic speed, otherwise we’d have back-ups in the basement. He has a point.

      I read something about the freight train business last night– that’s helpful. The only problem is that WE LIVE NOT FAR FROM A TRAIN TRACK and I’m used to hearing freight trains! I mean, what are the chances?

      Anyway, we’ve decided that we’re just going to watch that Helen Hunt movie where they chase the tornadoes. I expect we’ll pick up some good pointers and we’ll be all set by March-April when things start getting real around here.

      Best of luck to you, and (seriously) thanks for the heads’ up about the freight train thing.

      January 24, 2012
      • a #

        Just for future reference, the freight trains that are not far away sound totally different than winds that sound like a freight train, and yet it’s an accurate description. I never quite got it until this past year, when I actually heard the wind get that bad. (Fortunately, we did not get an actual tornado through our neighborhood, or if we did, it was a mild one. It took down a couple trees at the park 1/2 mile away) It’s like art and porn – you’ll know it when you see (hear) it. I hope you never do. 🙂

        January 27, 2012
        • Wow. Thanks for that. I am so morbidly curious now. I agree- I hope I never hear it, but this is just another reason why I have to watch Twister. IMDb says the production budget for that movie was 88 million dollars, so you’d think they at least got the sound effects right.

          January 27, 2012
        • PS- I love that the spam blocker doesn’t pick up comments that have the actual word “porn” in them. Nice. Maybe it KNOWS that when porn is in the same sentence as art, the person posting it is smart and not a spambot. Either way, thanks for the comment. 🙂

          January 27, 2012
  8. Hilarious outlook, which is second only to the adorable dog!

    January 24, 2012
    • Why thank you. I really like your site, too.

      January 24, 2012
  9. Camille #

    Coming from a part of the country where the weather tries to kill me on a regular basis (it was a roadkill preserving, freeze your dang face, 10 degrees below zero two nights ago) I have to admit I am relieved that at least the tornado factor up here is practically nil, nadda, no-way-jose’ possible. We feel positively naked by late June when we’re finally safe from hypothermia and stripped down to windbreakers, pedal pushers, and tennis socks – but tornados? What’s that like toto? My overwhelming thought is…well, at least they’re warm…spinning like tops…but warm. Thunder is adorable. I’d come down there and steal her but she’d never survive up here without a coat so you’re safe for now.

    January 24, 2012
  10. Yeesh, I would never survive ten below. (I have circulation problems in my hands which turns me into psycho-woman when I get cold.) I do not know how you do it. The weird thing about tornadoes, apparently, is that they’re often followed by beautiful weather. Blue sky today, and it is, indeed, warm, so I’m not complaining, especially since some people really did get hit by that tornado in a major (albeit localized) way.

    Thunder would say thanks for the love, but she’s covered in mud and trying to eat a tree right now. Take care up there!!

    January 24, 2012
  11. I once watched a tornado from the “safety” of my front porch. Well, I watched all of our neighbors hanging out on their front porches, looking up at the sky. The sirens were blaring, but I’m pretty sure my mom was mixing up margaritas. (A good ol’ block party!) Geez, I love that woman.

    January 24, 2012
    • Your mom sounds awesome! We lived on a quiet block growing up, so I didn’t understand the block party feeling until I was walking in Park Slope, in Brooklyn, one evening last summer. It was incredible– Kids running around everywhere way past their bedtime, people grilling out, music blasting, lots of furniture in the street. It was a good place to be.

      January 24, 2012
      • Luckily, we did refrain from the furniture in the street… However, i did stay out in a thunder/lightening storm, while babysitting, with the kids, in the pool. (No one had ever explained to this 14 year old that lightening & pools = bad; or to the mother of those kids that babysitters at 14 probably aren’t trained to supervise swimming, especially during lightening storms…)

        January 24, 2012
  12. Wendy #

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting a good salmon recipe. It scares me to death to cook fish – I have no idea why. It just never tastes right, or I think it is going to be too ‘fishy.’ And on the subject of being scared to death, I would have been FREAKING OUT if I heard a tornado siren and had to hide in the basement. No joke. Anything related to violent weather scares me. But if he hasn’t seen it already, you should make Scott watch Twister for tornado safety kit motivation!

    January 24, 2012
    • Hi Wendy! There’s enough lemon (and other ingredients) in this recipe to kill any fishiness, I think. It’s addicting! I made it for weeks before posting it.

      But I know what you mean about fishiness. My favorite fish is cod, probably because I think it’s the least fishy fish I’ve ever had, but now I only eat it once or twice a year because I read a book about how it’s being overfished. But between you and me, cod is an option. 🙂

      Otherwise, one of my favorite bloggers, movita beaucoup, posted a delicious-looking salmon recipe last week– so that’s another option.

      We are totally going to watch Twister, even though Helen Hunt kind of annoys me.

      January 24, 2012
      • Wendy #

        She had me at vodka. 🙂

        January 24, 2012
        • Didn’t she, though? 🙂

          January 24, 2012
  13. mallory #

    Kismet! I was already making Israeli couscous tonight! But I did not have salmon to accompany, I had halibut, and anyway it was filets of significant size to feed my fish-devouring family, so I just baked it and slapped it on a plate instead of poaching and incorporating into the couscous. Though I *did* throw some chopped fresh parsley and oregano into the couscous along with feta, so in a way it is like I was following your recipe. Just in a totally different universe.

    Like you needed to know that level of detail about my family’s supper.

    As a sidebar: I grew up in Illinois. We had a sump pump room (??) within which we spent the vast majority of most spring 1am-3am hours. And we never had anything in there besides cobwebs and overturned wooden crates and the sedatives for our Golden Retriever (she went asylum-level at the first hint of raindrops). Which I suppose, in a desperate pinch, we all could have shared in, had we thought to bring bottled water to help swallow the giant pills. Such a rookie mistake for otherwise-seasoned professional tornado survivors.

    January 24, 2012
    • Wow, what are the chances that you would be making fish and Israeli cous cous tonight?! Was it good? Oregano must go great with feta. Good idea.

      I love halibut.

      Your story about your basement is funny (there is totally a sump in ours, too, by the way. I was like, “in a pinch. . . could we drink that water?”). It reminds me that Thunder ate a sleeping pill that she found on behind the TV of a rented beach house this summer. I frantically called the vet (I had only had her a few months and she was like 23 lbs.) and the vet said it would probably just make her drowsy. It did NOTHING to her. She was still a maniac who peed all over the carpet.

      January 24, 2012
  14. Here’s what I took from that story:
    1. you have an iPhone,
    2. I do not.

    I mean, I’m glad you didn’t get swept up in a tornado or anything. And I’m REALLY glad that Thunder is okay. But still. No iPhone.

    January 25, 2012
    • movita, you will be happy to know that it’s Scott’s. I don’t have one. And it’s a constant source of stress because the Bakery Story game I am obsessed with is on there, so the first thing I say in the morning and the last thing I say at night is “can I see your iPhone?” It’s terribly romantic.

      January 25, 2012
      • Okay, just so you know, I knew the phone was Scott’s. I can read, for cripes sake. But there is an iPhone in your house. It’s basically yours. Because you play the Bakery Story game. Also, 2.0 just leaned over and read that and yelled, “THE BAKERY STORY GAME?”

        And I still. No iPhone.

        January 27, 2012
        • And I still? AND I STILL?

          Huh. I guess I can read, but writing? Not so much.

          January 27, 2012
          • Don’t worry about it–you don’t even need to know how to write once you have an iPhone, since it does it all for you.

            Gah! If you get an iPhone, our virtual bakeries can be FRIENDS and we can leave tips for each other and gift each other chocolate cake and I can send you the tools you need to build your deep fryer, etc. (This will make more sense in a couple of months when you start playing.)

            January 27, 2012
  15. sarah #

    Having lived where tornado sirens are pretty common it used to take quite a bit to get me to the basement. However since I live within a few hours of Joplin MO and heard more horror stories after their May tornado than I can even fathom, I have actually started going to the basement when they go off. I figure whats an hour of my life in the basement, plus it is probably a good habit to teach my kids. And our pantry is in the basement (yes, it is super convenient to have a pantry not even located on the same floor of your house as the kitchen) so we could probably survive quite a bit down there.
    We do have a weather radio, and it will work even when our regualr radio wont. You set it for your specific area. I recommend it even if your ipods do get some reception.

    I cant wait for spring…tornadoes be damned.

    January 25, 2012
    • Alright, a weather radio it is. That settles it.

      I can’t believe your pantry is in your basement. Dude, I would spend all of my time down there. I would probably sit down there with a spoon and a jar of nutella, tune the weather radio to some warm tropical island, and daydream of massages on the beach.

      January 25, 2012
      • sarah #

        The nutella and peanut butter is inconveniently located in the kitchen (so the kids can reach it). This means that in addition to remembering to grab phone chargers, flashlights, and our shoes, I need to remember to grab the nutella. Thank goodness you reminded me. Who would want to live in their basement without nutella? Not me.

        And while my tornado experience does include the freight train sound (not passenger train) the eeriest part is actually the silence.

        I think the next addition to the basement is going to be posters of tropical islands. That should improve our mood and help us forget that we live smack dab in the middle of Missouri. Another excellent storm survival tip!

        January 26, 2012
  16. Kate K #

    Hahahahahahahahha, love this post. Recipe looks delish, too.

    January 25, 2012
    • No fish for you, though, right? (Have no idea.) Soon!

      January 25, 2012
  17. This is so funny!! I’ve never been in a basement that didn’t smell like wet cardboard and goat! But I never articulated it in my mind before. Anyway this post is a masterpiece. Well done. A pure pleasure to read. 🙂

    January 25, 2012
    • Linda, your kind words are so encouraging. Thank you so very, very much.

      January 26, 2012
  18. HA! That reminds me of when I first moved to Texas and we had our first tornado warning (surprisingly, the Hill Country gets a lot of them). I was particularly freaking out and decided that if I was going to go – and the chances of that were good, as I was living in a trailer park at the time, and you know how tornadoes love trailer parks – I was at least going to go happy, and went to town on a bottle of bourbon.

    And your story about prep stuff for natural disasters sounds like you guys are as prepared as my family is. Growing up in LA, we were told to have emergency kits on hand for earthquakes. My dad’s plan was that we would drink water out of the water heater (how we’d get into it, I was never certain) and that we could split a decade-old MRE that a visiting friend from college had left behind. I see no way that could end badly.

    January 25, 2012
    • Your bourbon story was much appreciated in this household, I just want you to know. We have taken it under advisement and may need to stash some down there. We don’t have any MREs (thank goodness) but we have a lot of dehydrated space ice cream, since we live next to the space center. Your MRE story reminds me to put that down there, too!

      January 26, 2012
  19. I have a lot of favorite things about this post, but one of them is definitely the awesome ingredients photo with the couscous in a scoop. I love Israeli couscous, and I’m jealous that I don’t have enough of it or a container that will fit in my cabinet that is big enough to warrant a scoop.

    January 25, 2012
    • Ah, I have to admit that I don’t have a bushel of cous cous in my closet– I just poured some from a wee container into that scoop because Scott gave it to me for Christmas (he found it at an antique shop). It’s pretty, isn’t it? I wish I had an old cake pan or loaf pan similar to the scoop– it’s so aesthetically pleasing. And the back drop is the purple wall in our study. I can’t get enough of it.

      January 26, 2012
  20. What’s wrong with Tinned Sardines?

    January 26, 2012
    • Hello Jonny! First of all, I think it’s awesome that there is a Sardine Society. Way to stand up for what you believe in. (Seriously.) I may have to start a Cilantro Society if there isn’t one yet, or join an existing one. Did you know that Huntsville, Alabama (where I live) was voted 7th best city to live in with a mustache by the Mustache Society? Hot!

      Let me clarify: I like sardines. Just not in a salad of glue and corn, between two pieces of cardboard– which is all we’d have to work with down there. The only time I have not liked sardines is once when I had osso bucco with sardine sauce or something, in New York. The two flavors were terrible together, I thought, and I vowed never to have osso bucco again.

      What’s your favorite sardine recipe? That salad on a roll pictured on your website looks good.

      January 26, 2012
  21. Ha! Thunder is my new heroine. Also, what is that purple background in the last food photo? I hope it’s your wall, because that’s an excellent wall color. I’d have to redecorate while Thomas was out of town in order to have any sort of purple walls in my house.

    January 28, 2012
    • It IS the wall. It’s my favorite color in the house- a deep plum wine color. We’re renting this place. When we moved in, I wanted it to be the bedroom, but the heat in there is super intense. It’s 10 degrees warmer than the rest of the house, so we made it into an office because we didn’t want to get roasted in our sleep.

      January 29, 2012
      • Good plan. Sleep roasting is the WORST.

        January 29, 2012

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