I have liked whatever I have tasted of middle-eastern food so far, from the ubiquitous Lebanese which used to come in handy whenever I didn't feel like cooking back when we lived in France, to Moroccan Tagines to Turkish Imam Bayildis and all the bean dishes which we gorged on last summer in Istanbul. So I recently bought a couple of cookbooks - one on Middle-eastern food and one on African recipes - which I was really keen on trying out. It's been a pretty hectic time for us for many reasons, and we've been eating out a lot, including really heavy Indian food, so I thought Middle-eastern food would have just the right touch of flavour and lightness with the added benefits of both familiarity and exoticity.
Couscous sounded like the right thing to serve, along with a simple warm bean salad. I had encountered couscous years ago at a French friend's home. She had gone to great trouble to make a bowl of vegetarian couscous for me as I was the only vegetarian at the party. Unfortunately her recipe had dates, raisins and was overwhelmingly sweet which is something I don't care for in a main course. My recipe book had all kinds of meat-based couscous recipes and the only vegetarian one needed roasting vegetables for 2 hours, which I just wasn't feeling up to. So I figured I'd invent a recipe for myself and went along. Both the salad and the couscous were delicious and loved by even my son who is a picky eater, and the meal was exactly what I was looking for - light, nutritious and infused with a sense of harmony and well-being. What a way to start a week!
This post is going over to Skinny Gourmet for Weekend Herb Blogging.
Warm Bean Salad
1 pound Green beans, peeled and cooked ( I boiled them in salted water until done)
100 gms Feta Cheese, cubed
1 red onion, cubed
2 tbsp olive oil
10-15 black or green olives
Juice of 1 lime
Heat the olive oil. Add the onion and tomato and saute for a minute, then add the green beans and the Feta cheese. Stir to mix for a couple of minutes and turn off the heat. Add the olives and the lime juice, mix and serve. Feel free to top a handful of walnuts or pinenuts.
1/2 green, yellow and red bell pepper cut into strips
1 onion, julienned
1 zucchini, cubed
2-3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
300 ml water
1 tsp cumin
1-2 tsp paprika
Salt to taste
2 tomatoes, cubed
Heat the olive oil. Add the cumin seeds and wait for them to turn toasty. Add the garlic and onions and saute until the onion turns translucent. Add the tomatoes and cook until they turn soft. Add the zucchini and the 300 ml water, salt and paprika. Cook on a low heat, covered, for five minutes, then take the cover off and let simmer until the zucchini starts turning translucent. Add the bell peppers and keep simmering until all the vegetables are cooked.
Meanwhile, put a tbsp of olive oil into a saucepan and heat. Turn the heat off and add 250 gms of couscous and stir to mix. Add 1/4 cup of warm water and mix with a fork or your fingers until the couscous grains start plumping up. Leave aside until the gravy is done. Then add a few shavings of butter into the warm couscous and work with your fingers until the butter is melted and the couscous grains plump and shiny.
Assemble by serving a mound of couscous on each plate, making a shallow crater in the middle and pouring the gravy into the crater. Serve hot.