Thursday, July 21, 2011

Couscous with Veggies, Chickpeas, Toasted Almonds, Herbs & A Little Spice

We are in the midst of a very ugly heat wave here in Philadelphia, which I will not bore you with the details of. Except that it is ugly, I am too hot, and I don't want to talk about it. Except to say that I would pay double the value of my student loans for a freak July blizzard. Which is a lot. Moving on.

They (the internet) tell me that whole-wheat couscous is popular amongst the vegetarian set, which I guess shouldn't really surprise me. It's easy to prepare, versatile in its seasoning potential, and can be loaded up with a ton of veggies and beans for a delicious complete-protein meal. So here is the version that I came up with tonight. I got a bit cavalier with combining flavors, so measurements are approximate:

"2 servings" of whole wheat couscous; 3/4 cup before cooking
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets, cut small
1 1/2 cups chickpeas, canned and thoroughly rinsed or fully cooked
2 plum tomatoes, diced and seeded
2-3 good pinches paprika, to taste
2 teaspoons dried dill
1 tablespoon lemon juice, white wine vinegar or jarring juice from queen olives or something similar. (I used the juice from a jar of pepperoncini, which worked great.)
1-2 tablespoons dried parsley, or about 1 tablespoon fresh, coarsely chopped
A few fresh basil leaves per serving, torn
3/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup toasted almond slivers
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil

Makes 3 main-dish servings.

1. Cook couscous according to package directions.
2. Toss with everything except the basil and almonds.
3. Transfer couscous mixture to plates or a serving platter, and sprinkle with basil leaves and toasted almond slivers - as much or as little as you want.

Cook's Notes: 1) Toasting almond slivers is easy: Toss one-layer's-worth in a dry frying or saute pan and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until toasty in color and deliciously aromatic. This doesn't take long. 2) Since I didn't precisely measure the liquids that went into this dish, I would say to start with a little and see how you like it. Of course, if you find that your couscous is a bit too dry, you can add a bit more olive oil and/or juice.
I know - paprika, basil, dill and broccoli - not the most common combination. At the last moment I wondered - what was I thinking? Well, I don't have an answer to that, but somehow this became a delightful combination. Brady hit the nail on the head - it's definitely different, but definitely delicious. The paprika brings a bit of the spice factor while the chickpeas add body and protein, the almonds add crunch and the whole thing is rather herby and delicious.
Couscous in progress. Yumyumyum.
There is probably no way to significantly mess this up. Diced bell peppers would also be delicious in this herb-spice-veggie combination, in addition to or instead of the tomato. It's super easy and also vegan! Everybody wins.

Quote of the Day: Couscous - the food so nice they named it twice. ~ Dale Denton, Pineapple Express (2008)

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