My life is packed into boxes right now – we officially move tomorrow and that means that we may be living on take-out for the near future until I get the kitchen situated after we get back from Texas. I know that I’ll have some awesome posts for you after that trip, and until those are ready, I have a couple other recipes to share like today’s!
So, I have two wonderful things to talk about today – Cava Grill restaurants and George’s Mill Farm Artisan Cheese. These may sound foreign to anyone not from the DC area, so give me a little time to explain. Cava Grill is an offshoot of a popular local restaurant concept called Cava Mezze which has multiple locations throughout DC, Maryland and Virginia. Cava Mezze is known for delicious Mediterranean and Greek-inspired tapas dishes, great drinks and just a fun and cool atmosphere. I’ve eaten at Cava Mezze a couple times and love a few things about it. First, the food is delicious and that’s really the most important thing, right? Secondly, the size of the tapas portions is generous compared to many other tapas restaurants in the area. Two people can easily split three tapas dishes, be full, and not empty their wallets…win win. And thirdly, they have delicious spreads! I guess this fits into the food category, but I love their many flavors of hummus, baba ghanoush, spicy harissa and tzatziki spreads just for starters. You can buy many of them at Whole Foods in the region, too.
That being said, Cava Mezze is definitely a sit-down type of place (and if you go on a weekend, you’ll need reservations, for sure). It’s a great spot for date nights or a night out with the girls. Or guys, too — don’t want to leave out any male readers! But it’s definitely not a place to go into expecting to get in and out fast. This is where Cava Grill comes in.
Cava Grill is my newest obsession; I’ve been there four times in the past month and a half! When I describe it to friends, I say that it’s “Chipotle meets Sweetgreen meets Cava.” [For those not from the DC area, Sweetgreen is another fast-casual, build-your-own salad and grain bowl type of concept…they are also delicious and another of my favorite spots for a quick bite.] Essentially, Cava Grill takes some of the best parts about Cava Mezze restaurants – the hummus, dips, falafel, chargrilled chicken, beef, spicy lamb meatballs, etc. – and then adapts it to fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Sweetgreen that are all the rage. Seriously, fast-casual places are so hot right now.
At Cava Grill, you walk in, decide if you want a salad bowl, a grains bowl (made with white or brown rice), or a greens + grains bowl which combines the two. Then, you pick a protein and add any toppings, spreads, dips, and dressings that you want. Within a minute, you have a delicious and generously-sized bowl in front of you to faceplant into. And I totally do faceplant into the bowls sometimes depending on how hungry I am…don’t judge. Here’s the menu if you want to take a gander. I love the variety that you can get with restaurant concepts like this because I find that it’s hard to get bored with the food! With so many options for bases, proteins and toppings, it’s easy to go back and create yet another combination of flavors. Oh, and they have delicious juices, too…those combined with these bowls make me so, so happy.
What I’m getting to (in way too many words) is that I decided to copy Cava Grill at home one night last week. I wanted something lighter for dinner, yet also filling. This girl needs her carbs, so just salad wasn’t going to cut it. Rather than make rice, I decided to use Israeli couscous that I had on hand. It’s fast to prepare and was really satisfying. I added a rainbow carrot (dark purple variety), a can of chickpeas, and some baked tofu to the couscous during the cooking process for more protein, but you could easily leave them out or substitute something else that you like such as rotisserie chicken or meatballs.
While the couscous cooked, I prepped toppings like olives, lemon wedges, cucumber, and cheese. I forgot to put Greek yogurt on top in the photos here, but I added that also and it was delicious! One of my favorite toppings that Cava Grill offers that I didn’t have on hand is pickled red onions. I will definitely plan to make those in advance next time as the briny flavor from them is delicious. If you need a pickling recipe, you can see Deborah’s post here on how to easily pickle just about anything.
The star ingredient for me was this fabulous feta cheese from a goat and cheese farm called George’s Mill Farm Artisan Cheese. I have a whole other post planned on this business for the future so won’t go into too much detail just yet, but George’s Mill Farm is run by a husband-and-wife team who decided a few years ago to move to Lovettsville (which is in Loudoun County, which you know I love) and open up a goat farm. They make fabulous cheeses and this feta is seriously the best I’ve ever had. It has amazing tang to it and is a little creamier than other fetas I’ve tried, which makes it great for spreading onto toast. It also crumbles really well into bowls like this. If you’re around the Lovettsville/Loudoun area, you can stop at their farm stand or find their products at various markets and restaurants; here’s a list of where to find them and a list of their cheeses. If you’re not local and still want good feta, I recommend looking for a goat’s milk feta in your local store. Sheep’s milk feta works great too, but I am personally hooked on the style made with goat’s milk now.
Feel free to use this recipe as a template to build your own greens-and-grains bowl! Sub in brown or white rice for the couscous, go with regular small-bead couscous instead of Israeli if you want, and use kale or spinach instead of arugula. The choice is yours, so have fun with it. This makes for a great Meatless Monday recipe; if you need more inspiration, just visit Deborah and Tina’s pages to see what other bloggers are making.
Have a great Monday!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 rainbow carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
- 1 box (8 ounces) of Israeli couscous
- 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 square of baked tofu, diced (I used Trader Joe's Savory variety)
- 3/4 teaspoon Greek seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1 six ounce bag of fresh arugula (sub in baby spinach, romaine, kale, etc.)
- English cucumber, diced
- Olives (green, kalamata or black work well), halved
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Lemon wedges
- Tomato, diced
- Greek yogurt
- Red wine vinegar and olive oil
- Roasted pepper vinaigrette
- Prepare the couscous by heating olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. When warm, add garlic and carrot and sauté for 2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant.
- Add couscous and brown for a couple minutes in the pan. Then add chickpeas, baked tofu, Greek seasoning, and salt. Stir to combine everything together.
- Pour in broth and raise heat to medium-high (most of the couscous and other items should be covered by liquid). Allow the liquid to come to a boil and then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until couscous is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
- While the couscous cooks, prepare your salad greens, toppings, and any dressings or spreads.
- When you're ready to eat, divide the greens into four separate bowls and spritz with some fresh lemon juice. Divide the couscous mixture evenly on top of the greens (each bowl should have ~1 to 1 1/2 cups of this). Then, go crazy with your toppings. Keep it easy with olives, feta, cucumber, and red wine vinegar. Or, add extra flavor through tomatoes, hummus, and Greek yogurt - the choice is yours!
- Greek seasoning note: You should be able to find this in your normal grocery store as McCormick and other major brands make a version. You could definitely find it in specialty spice stores such as Penzey's, too. Or, make your own using a recipe such as this one: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/greek-seasoning-blend/.