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Couscous Salad with Chermoula Dressing

I am suffering from the end of the year syndrome…..not the calendar year but the school year !!! I just had a talk with N’s teacher abt how he is suffering from said syndrome and I was over the whole process !! I turn around and realize I have all the same symptoms !!!! Now does that mean I am looking forward to the summer holidays…..not really ! Imagine it , 60 odd days with all three of them home !!! I will admit it ….I am scared !!! I may be bigger, older and more mature but they outnumber me !!!! Well, getting back to the end of the year syndrome…..I am lethargic, have no enthusiasm and pretty much don’t want to do anything constructive !! Feeling the way I do, how am I supposed to keep the kid’s spirits up ???

Its teacher appreciation week at N’s school. I volunteered to bring in lunch one of the days and after a few questions regarding likes and dislikes, I figured I would make a couscous salad as it keeps well and tastes great at room temperature.I did get over my symptoms long enough to make the lunch !! I think the idea of a brand new ……..guinea pig, if you will, pushed me up from the doldrums for a bit ! Ms. B, N’s teacher, was very sportive when she discovered that she was being experimented on !! Did I mention that I really like her ??? I cant get over it…..here I am , a culinary school graduate ,I love food, cook food from around the world, bake too but noooo, my kids are some of the pickiest eaters on the planet !!!! I love them to pieces but I do wish they would eat a little differently !!!

Couscous, very small granules of pasta common to North Africa, which for the longest time I did not like. Let me clarify, I thought I would not like it…….I keep telling the kids that they shouldn’t say no to any food without trying it and there I was doing it !!! So a couple years back , after one such argument with my oldest N, I decided it was time to live up to the standards that I am asking the kids to live up to !!!! I tried it and found that I liked it !!! 

Chermoula Dressing

Once I got hooked , I have tried many a variation on a couscous salad, but this is one of my favorites. After trying it , Ms. B asked for the recipe so I figured why not post the recipe ??? To be very honest , I love making couscous ‘coz its so ridiculously easy to make and takes all of 3-4 minutes……other than the chopping time of course !!! Do not be put off by the number of ingredients, they are all pretty much what almost everyone has in their kitchens. If you don’t use spices, then you probably will have to buy some but these can be used in every style of cooking so its a worthwhile investment in my book ……I do write a blog called spices galore so what do you expect ??? Now I sometimes call this the kitchen sink salad as I throw everything except the kitchen sink in it !!

The dressing used is a Chermoula Dressing. Chermoula is a marinade used in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and a few other parts of North Africa. Its a pretty fluid recipe varying from region to region but it almost always contains herbs, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, cumin and salt. There are versions with pickled lemons, saffron, coriander. A common moroccan version uses dried parsley, paprika, cumin and salt. I have used fresh cilantro ‘coz I always have it and also green chillies as I require more heat. On an average 1/3 cup of dry couscous yields 1 cup of cooked couscous. I use wheat couscous as it is easily available and I like the nuttier taste !! This recipe is for 4-6 people for lunch /dinner or 8-10 people as a side, so halve it if you have fewer people. Perform your own experiments to find the right combination that works for you. 

Couscous Salad with Chermoula Dressing

1 cup Wheat Couscous

¼ cup plus 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil

2-4 tbsp Red Onion, finely chopped

¼ cup Cucumber, peeled and chopped

¼ cup Carrots, peeled and grated

¼ cup Bell Peppers, chopped ( I used green and red )

¼ cup canned Black Beans, rinsed

2 tbsp dried Raisins

2 tbsp dried Cranberries

2 tbsp Mint, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1 tbsp Paprika

1 tbsp Cumin Powder

2 tsp Coriander Powder

1-2 Green Chillies, finely chopped

¼ cup Cilantro, finely chopped

¼ cup Lime Juice

Salt to taste

Place the couscous, raisins and cranberries in a bowl.

In the microwave, heat 1 cup water with 2 tbsp oil and 1 tsp salt for 2 minutes.

Pour over couscous and cover immediately.

After 4-5 minutes, open and fluff the granules with a fork.

Pour the lime juice and olive oil in a bottle.

Add the garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, green chillies, cilantro and 1 tsp salt. Shake well .

Now add the veggies and beans to the couscous. Pour the dressing over and mix well.

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This is off to ” THE SPICE TRAIL- PAPRIKA ” at Bangers and Mash and ” THE TASTE OF THE TROPICS- CILANTRO ” at the East West Realm.

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