Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Summer Couscous Salad

This summery meal won't heat up your kitchen. Refreshing mint, garlic, raisins, orange juice and couscous give this salad a hint of the Middle East. Couscous is made by moistening hard durum wheat and rolling it in flour to form tiny pellets. An authentic Moroccan couscous takes about an hour to make. Precooked couscous, the kind found in most supermarkets, takes only 5 minutes.

Cooking the onions until their natural juices caramelize, a process that takes about 10 minutes, gives the salad a natural sweet flavor. Let the onions cook while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

The pita bread can be served warm or at room temperature. Warm the pita in a microwave or toaster oven to save heating up a large oven in hot weather.

Cooking tip: To keep couscous fluffy, toss with a fork rather than a spoon.

Timing tips: Start onions first, then measure remaining ingredients. Boil water for couscous. Complete recipe.

1/2 medium onion, sliced (1 cup)

1/2 cup couscous

2 sliced carrots (1 cup)

1/4 pound zucchini cut into 1-inch dice (1 cup)

2 medium cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup raisins

1 can (15.5-ounce) chickpeas, rinsed (1 1/2 cups)

1/3 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 small tomatoes cut into 2-inch cubes (2 cups)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint

1/2 small head Romaine lettuce, washed and drained

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 medium pita breads

Pour 1/2 cup water into a medium-size nonstick skillet. Add onions and cook over medium heat 10 minutes. Add more water if onions become too dry.

In a saucepan with tight-fitting lid, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil; remove from heat and add couscous. Cover and let sit 5 minutes. Add carrots to onions and cook 5 minutes. Add zucchini and garlic and cook 5 more minutes.

Place couscous in a bowl and fluff with a fork. Add onion mixture, raisins and chickpeas and toss well. Mix orange juice, olive oil, cayenne and cinnamon together, then add to couscous and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Toss tomatoes and mint together. Line a serving platter or 2 individual plates with lettuce leaves and spoon on salad on top. Sprinkle tomatoes and mint over couscous salad. Place pita in toaster oven for 2 minutes to warm through, or warm in oven a few minutes. Makes 2 servings.

Per serving: 798 calories, 27 g protein, 151 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat; 28.2 g fiber, no cholesterol, 635 mg sodium (sodium will decrease if chickpeas are rinsed). Calories from fat: 14 percent.

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