Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Toasted Couscous Salad with Asparagus and Tomatoes


One thing I love about visiting my parents, is that I can experiment on them!  They are up for pretty much any new recipe I throw at them... which makes them excellent test subjects.  On this particular visit, I was looking to make something light and healthy, but really flavorful and easy.  I settled on this toasted couscous salad, and it was a big hit!  (We ALL went back for seconds!)

Couscous may look like a grain, but it is really a tiny pasta.  Toasting it first makes it fragrant, and gives it a slightly nutty flavor.  We added enough protein and veggies to make it a full but light meal, and a flavorful vinaigrette adds a LOT of flavors to bring it all together! This would be perfect lunch or a light and healthy dinner dish when you don't want to feel weighed down.  - and it couldn't be much easier.

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Ingredients:
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons
  • 6-8 thinly sliced green onions (scallions)
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp capers, drained
  • 2 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized chunks
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 2 cups couscous
  • 1/2 bundle of fresh asparagus, cut into 2" pieces
** Watch Julie and Chef Nino make this recipe on Good Morning New Orleans!

Step-by-Step:
Begin by heating up the chicken broth.  If you don't have "broth" or "stock," feel free to use a broth "base" or even bouillon cubes.  
4 cups chicken broth
While broth is coming to a boil, toast the couscous.  Over moderately high to high heat, dry toast the couscous in a wide pan, stirring as you go, until golden brown and fragrant (about 5 minutes). 
2 cups couscous
Dry toast until golden brown and fragrant
Once the broth has come up to a boil, stir in the couscous, toss in the asparagus spears, cover and turn off the heat.  After 5 minutes, the broth should be absorbed and you can fluff it with a fork.      
Add toasted couscous to the broth.
Add the asparagus into the broth.
Cover and turn off the heat.
During that 5 minutes, prepare the vinaigrette:  combine lemon juice, olive oil, capers, basil, lemon zest, tomatoes, green onions, tomatoes, cooked chicken, salt and pepper.
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp drained capers
1/3 cup fresh basil ribbons
Zest of 3 lemons
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
1/3 cup green onions (scallions)
Add 2 cups cooked chicken. (Another great use for rotisserie chicken!!)
Add kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Now, combine the cooked couscous and asparagus with the vinaigrette and stir gently to combine. 
 All the water is absorbed.  It is ready to be fluffed.

combine cooked couscous with vinaigrette
I prefer it served hot; however if you would like to serve it as a cold salad, you do that! 
If you will not be serving it immediately, consider making additional vinaigrette.  This is a pasta, and it will soak up all the vinaigrette.  You don't want it to be dry when you serve it!!!  
So our synopsis?  Yes... it was DELICIOUS!  Yes - it is healthy!  Yes - it was fast and easy and would fit into the "under 30 minutes" category quite nicely!  And it was a fabulous way to recycle some leftover chicken.  I think it would also be really great with some pan sauteed shrimp.

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Looking for more delicious recipes?
Visit my Recipe Index for lots of great recipes to try out on your family.  Inexperienced in the kitchen?  Don't worry about that!  Most of my recipes have step-by-step directions and photos to guide you through it!   You may also enjoy my new page, Filmstrips for pinning, where you can see (and click to) whole recipes at a time, as well as pinning them to your Pinterest account.
Crock Pot Beef and Broccoli
 
Chicken Monterrey
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Orange Julius Smoothies

Pickle Brined Fried Chicken

Creamy Italian Sausage and Tortellini

Food Nerd Notes:
So just what exactly IS this couscous pasta?  According to my research, couscous seems to have a North African origin. Archaeological evidence dating back to the 10th century, consisting of kitchen utensils needed to prepare this dish, has been found in North Africa, and to this day, couscous is known as 'the North Africa national dish'.  In the Sahelian countries of West Africa, such as Mali and Senegal, pearl millet is pounded or milled to the size and consistency necessary for the couscous.  In Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya couscous is generally served with vegetables (such as carrots, potatoes, turnips, etc.), cooked in a spicy or mild broth or stew, and has some meat added in (generally, chicken, lamb, or mutton).

In preparation, semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets, sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate, and then sieved. This process is very labor-intensive. In the traditional method of preparing couscous, groups of women would come together and make large batches over several days. These would then be dried in the sun and used for several months. Couscous was traditionally made from the hard part of the durum, the part of the grain that resisted the grinding of the relatively primitive millstone. In modern times, couscous production is largely mechanized, and the product is sold in markets around the world.
Nutritionally, couscous is among the healthiest grain-based products. It has a glycemic load per gram 25% below that of pasta.  It has a superior vitamin profile to pasta, containing twice as much riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate, and containing four times as much thiamine and pantothenic acid.  In terms of protein, couscous has 3.6 g for every 100 calories, equivalent to pasta, and well above the 2.6 g for every 100 calories of white rice. Furthermore, couscous contains a 1% fat-to-calorie ratio, compared to 3% for white rice, 5% for pasta, and 11.3% for rice pilaf.

Written Method:
Begin by heating up the chicken broth.  While broth is coming to a boil, toast the couscous.  Over moderately high to high heat, dry toast the couscous in a wide pan, stirring as you go, until golden brown and fragrant (about 5 minutes).  Once the broth has come up to a boil, stir in the couscous, toss in the asparagus spears, cover and turn off the heat.  After 5 minutes, the broth should be absorbed and you can fluff it with a fork.

During that 5 minutes, prepare the vinaigrette:  combine lemon juice, olive oil, capers, basil, lemon zest, tomatoes, green onions, tomatoes, cooked chicken, salt and pepper.  Now, combine the cooked couscous and asparagus with the vinaigrette and stir gently to combine.  I prefer it served hot; however if you would like to serve it as a cold salad, of course that is up to you.  If you will not be serving it immediately, consider making additional vinaigrette.  This is a pasta, and it will soak up all the vinaigrette.  You don't want it to be dry when you serve it!!!

6 comments:

  1. don't leave out the capers, they really do add some zip to the dish, loved it

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree! It's all the different flavors and textures that makes each bite so awesome!! :)

      Delete
    2. I'm not a big fan of capers but I'm going to try it with green olives instead.

      Delete
  2. LOVE this recipe, I cook it for my boyfriend all the time. I am a big fan of your blog, do you mind doing more recipes like this one? Pretty Please!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great job .Thanks for sharing such a fantastic recipe.Keep up writing and giving us many more like this one.
    Couscous recipes

    ReplyDelete
  4. I tried this sautéing shrimp with a little butter and white wine. The amount of pepper and lemon used was a bit overwhelming so I'll reduce the lemon and pepper by half which should bring out more of the other ingredients. The recipe is simple to assemble. Thanks for sharing.
    George S.
    Oceanside NY

    ReplyDelete

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