Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Couscous Salad

Many people do not know that Couscous is actually a pasta, not a grain.  Many also do not know that it comes in different sizes.  There is the small "grain" Couscous that is a common alternative to rice but here we have the large "grain" Couscous (aka, Israeli Couscous or Pearl Pasta) that we will be using for a salad.  It's so versatile and it will absorb any flavor you impart into it.  Having said that, because it is so plain on it's own, this method will call for us to "toast" the Couscous and cook it in a similar fashion to cooking risotto but it won't nearly be as precise so don't worry.  I nickname this the "kitchen sink" salad because you can add just about anything or switch up just about anything you like and the measurements do not need to be exact. If you have a bunch of  random veggies in your fridge, this is the perfect way to use them up.  This salad is robust with fresh herbs and veggies which will make a perfect complement to any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern meal or as a fun alternative to the traditional pasta salad.  Enjoy!

Heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil on Med Low heat and add the couscous

We want to "toast" the couscous and we are looking for a light brown color. This will take about 7 min.

Next add the minced garlic and stir for about 1 min until aromatic. 

Next add the chicken broth, in about 1/2 cup increments, making sure the grains have absorbed the liquid after each addition. Add the turmeric and salt now as well. Turmeric is optional but it does give it a nice yellow color.

With the last 1 cup of broth, stir until everything is incorporated and cover and set the heat to low and let it simmer for a few minutes.

It will look like this when it's done. Stir to release any clumps.

I added the cooked couscous to a bowl that had all the veggies and herbs (listed below) as well as the lemon, lemon zest and olive oil. Give it a good toss then add the toasted slivered almonds and toss again.

Refreshing and yummy!

Couscous Salad

Feeds 6-8

3 C large grain Couscous (ie, pearl pasta or Israeli Couscous)
3 C chicken broth (or 1 1/2 tsp chicken broth paste + 3 C water)
1/2 C chopped mint (.66 oz box from the grocery store or a small bunch)
1 C chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 - 1 C sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
10 oz box cherry tomatoes, sliced (use more -up to you)
3-4 lemons, juiced
1 lemon zested
1/4 C olive oil + olive oil for saute
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric (optional - gives it a pretty yellow color)

Lay the slivered almonds on a sheet tray in a 350 F oven and allow them to toast so that they achieve a light brown color. This will take about 5-7 minutes. Once toasted, set aside to cool.

Finely mince 2 cloves of garlic and set it aside.  In a sauce pan (I used a 3 1/2 qt low saute pan), heat up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the Couscous and stir it around so that all the grains are coated with the olive oil.  Stirring the Couscous ever so often, we will want to toast it.  This will take approximately 7 minutes. The color will be light brown. Add the garlic and stir that around for about a min or two.  (Do not add the garlic first or else it will burn.)

Add the turmeric and salt. Next add the chicken broth incrementally about 1/2 C at a time, stirring after each addition and allowing the Couscous grains to absorb the liquid each time, as if you were making risotto.  This process will take about 10 minutes or so.  With the last cup of liquid, simply add it and stir so that it's all incorporated and put the heat on low and cover the pan.  A few min later, you'll notice that the water is absorbed and the Couscous grains still have an al-dente bite to them.

Uncover the pan and stir everything so that the grains are loosened.  As that is cooling off, you can now work on the other ingredients.

In a big bowl, add:
zest of one lemon
3-4 juiced lemons
1/4 C olive oil
bell pepper
black pepper

...add the cooked Couscous and the almonds and toss well to combine.  I didn't feel like it needed more salt and pepper but you can add more if you like.  This can be eaten slightly warm but of course tastes delicious cold and it tastes even better the next day. You can use basil instead of parsley. Or use cilantro instead mint and add a diced jalapeno and use lime instead of lemon. Add diced chicken. Add cranberries or any dried fruit.  Add anything you like...the possibilities are endless!