Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Couscous is an ancient style of pasta made from wheat very common to the Mediterranean and known by a lot of names. I see it repeatedly show up on FoodTV on different shows and used all sorts of ways, usually associated with Moroccan or Sicilian cooking. Finally after getting beaten over the head enough with its merit I started trying it in different things based on what I saw on Food TV.

Couscous is the easiest thing in the world to make. Pour boiling liquid on it. Cover it. Wait 5 minutes and you are done. No stirring, draining or watching hoping it doesn't boil over or burn. A stupid easy way to get carbs in your diet. While it sits and steeps you can get whatever else you want with it or in it prepped.

This recipe is inspired by a lot of the flavors of the Mediterranean but doesn't pay any particular allegiance to any particular one.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

  • 1 can chicken broth (vegetable broth if you are in a vegan mindset)
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/4 c couscous
  • 1 T mint (2T fine chopped if using fresh)
  • 1 T parsley (2 T fine chopped if using fresh)
  • 1 T basil (2T chiffonade if using fresh)
  • 1 c grape or cherry tomatoes - halved
  • 1 c cucumber, quartered then sliced
  • 1/2 c coarse chopped roasted red pepper
  • 1/2 c sliced kalmata olives
  • 4 green onions, tops included, sliced
  • 1 lime, zest and juice.
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine broth, oil, garlic, and bay leaf in a small sauce pan. Cover and bring to simmer, simmer for 5 minutes covered to develop bay leaf flavor.

Combine couscous and dried herbage, if using fresh do not add now. Pour the hot liquid over the couscous. Cover. Let it steep 5 minutes, tightly covered until liquid is absorbed.

Once liquid absorbed uncover add lime zest and juice and fluff with a fork. Add any fresh herbs, the veg and fold in gently. Add fresh cracked black pepper to taste.

NOTE: as the broth and olives bring a salt element to the salad do not test for salt until it has rested at least an hour. At the end of the rest period flavors will have melded enough to test for salt, taste and adjust as needed. Serve or allow to sit until meal time. Can be served at room temp or chilled.

Really important, resist temptation to remove lid while steeping. Doing so you run the risk of losing moisture and having a dry chewy couscous.

Toss in any board juices with the veg as it is flavor you'll lose otherwise. Be very careful with the salting as too much and both the cukes and tomato will release too much moisture making the salad wet...and those vegs very funky rubbery.

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