Vaguely Mediterranean Vegetarian Barbecue Thingy

Main Ingredients

2 Portobello mushroom caps 1/2 onion (your choice of color) 1 red pepper 1 cup large couscous* 2 cups chicken broth 2 tablespoons real butter 1/4 cup oil (olive or corn will work)

1/2 cup of yogurt, plain

Barbecue Sauce 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce 1 small can tomato paste (not sauce) 1/3 cup brown sugar five or six cilantro leaves Cumin Garlic powder Onion powder Black pepper Balsamic vinegar

Directions

First of all, let’s talk about the couscous. You don’t want the couscous they sell at Wal-Mart, the kind where the actual couscous bits are tiny like Malt-O-Meal. You want the kind where each individual couscou or whatever you call them are about the size of the pellets you load in a pellet gun, the kind you shoot vermin with. You can buy this at any reputable Mediterranean market. Look for places with names like “Marrakech” or “Abdul’s Market”.

Once you’ve obtained this, continue with the recipe. Go ahead. I’ll be waiting.

[...]

Ready?

Okay, first you want to slice the Portobello caps into strips about 1/3″ – 1/2″ wide. Think of how you’d cut steak or chicken for fajitas. Like that. Then chop the onion into rings and cut the rings in half. Finally, cut the red pepper into thinner strips.

Now, here’s the thing with the barbecue sauce — once you’ve got the Worcestershire, the tomato and the brown sugar, the rest is basically to taste. Throw it in a bowl and mix it thoroughly. It isn’t rocket science. Mix things until it tastes good to you. If it’s too thick, add a little more vinegar or Worcestershire. Balsamic vinegar is the Auto-Tune of cooking. It makes everything lovely.

Get a saucepan. Put it on medium high heat. Put the butter in it. When the butter is melted and sizzling, put the couscous in it. Yes, I’m serious. Sauté the couscous a bit, making sure to shift it around so you get all the sides of the little balls. When you feel you’ve accomplished this to a reasonable degree, pour in the two cups of chicken broth and cover it. Turn it to medium heat and let it cook. It will be done when the water is gone and the couscous is soft like rice.

Now that you’ve done this, take a big cast iron pan and put some olive oil in it. Put it on medium high heat as well. When the oil is all thin and shifty, throw the mushrooms, onions and red peppers in it. You want to sauté this stuff fairly well.

When it’s nice and sautéed, pour the barbecue sauce into the cast iron pan and mix everything around so it’s covered with sauce. Here’s the weird part — raise the temperature to high.

What will happen is that the sauce will begin to caramelize around the veggies. Be vigilant here. If you burn it, it will suck. Watch it the way you’d watch a junkie around your jewelry collection.

When it’s nice and thick and caramelized, turn off the heat and remove the cast iron skillet. The couscous ought to be done by this time, or pretty close.

When the couscous is done, take a big ladle and put a pile of it on your plate. Then take a big wide spoon and pour the barbecue sauce and veggies on top of it, like you would put spaghetti sauce on spaghetti.

Put a dollop of yogurt on top. Repeat for each diner in your party.

Enjoy.

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Current Status: The New Album

I’ve started writing (which, since I use computers, also means “recording”) the second Red State Soundsystem album, which will probably either be called SPQR or The Big Darkness or possibly Senatus Populus Que Red State Soundsystem. (Probably not, though. But maybe.)

As a songwriter, one of the biggest problems I have is getting over my abject horror of being pretentious. My inner Colin Meloy is constantly getting the shit kicked out of him by my inner Iggy Pop. “But I want to write songs about Ada Lovelace!” says Colin. “Shut the fuck up and write some ROCK AND ROLL, YOU FUCKIN’ PUSSY!” says Iggy, and gives him a Glasgow kiss. So I always end up somewhere in between — as my buddy Alex points out, I mainly write midtempo gloomy shit.

It’s scary, though, to go for the grandiose stuff, because you run the risk of just looking like an asshole. (Freak-folk people, I’m so looking at you right now.) But the response to the first album has been pretty good, critically if not necessarily financially. So I’m feeling a bit encouraged to let my more baroque tendencies take hold.

And so we have a bunch of new songs: “SPQR”, which is a Pogues/Gogol Bordello sort of track about a bastard of a Roman soldier; “Entropy” which is a sneering electro track sung from the perspective of Lucifer (“Where were you when the world was made? I was still drunk from the night before”); “702” which is about living in Las Vegas and how tourists all suck the big fat hairy sweaty cock; you get the picture. I’ve even got one song I’m playing around with that deals with a star-crossed love affair from the point of view of the man’s dog. And I’m orbiting the idea of the Ada Lovelace song, because I love her.

I’m also going to be including final versions of a few songs I’ve been kicking around the Net for a long time: “After The Ice Age”, “Invisible” and “Country Dress” will almost certainly be on the album, as will “The Big Darkness”, which I’ve tried in a couple of permutations but never actually released. After this, I don’t have any more old songs at all; future albums will all be new stuff.

(If it seems like I’m recycling, well, consider this: most of the songs from most bands’ first couple of albums are made up of songs they’ve written long before. I just threw stuff out on the Net rather than waiting to collect it. And as Elvis Costello once said, you’ve got twenty-five years to write your first album and six months to write the follow-up.)

Musically, it’s probably going to be even more eclectic and all over the place than Ghosts In A Burning City. I’m not interested in making an album of songs that sound alike; I’m interested in writing whatever the fuck I feel like writing, and in this case that’s electronic and country and world beat and chamber music all mixed up. If that turns you off — if you like the comfort of knowing that all the tracks on the record are gonna sound like the Big Hit Single (except the inevitable One Slow Song), may I suggest you pick up the new Interpol album?

We’re considering setting up a Kickstarter project to help fund the recording. We need some new gear for this one; a good microphone preamp and a new recording interface for starters, an upgrade to Ableton Live 8, other refinements. In return, we’re thinking about offering Kickstarters access to a private making-of blog, some sort of video diary, and free copies of the album and other stuff (b-sides, remixes, etc.) when it comes out. We’d basically like to do this one in public, and get some money for it.

We may still release the Indie Rock Is Easy EP I’ve mentioned on Twitter, though we’ll probably just drop it for free on the Red State website. If we do, that will include a cover of the Big Friendly Corporation’s “LOL” and a secret song that I can’t talk about except that it’s going to have a special guest vocalist and it will make Kieron Gillen giggle.

So know you know as much as I do.

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