Monday, May 9, 2011

You Won't Know Until You Try It

When Mr. PT and I started co-habitating, we combined all the foods in our cupboards.  Along with the massive amounts of beans, brown rice, and frozen fruit I inherited, there was a lonely package of couscous.  I tend to be a little intimidated by ethnic ingredients.  They seem unfamiliar and I am unsure of how to serve them.  I am working on overcoming this fear.

Needless to say, this particular grain went unopened for quite some time.  This past weekend I was flipping through my Penzey's magazine (you must subscribe to this!) and stumbled upon a recipe containing the mysterious couscous.  It listed mint as an ingredient, a spice I do not usually work with.  So I thought to myself, I am never going to become a better cook if I do not put it all on the line and try this stuff out.  How hard could it be?

It turned out, not hard at all!  In fact, couscous was incredibly easy to prepare compared to rice or pasta.  And the texture, flavor, and overall presentation of the grain is pretty neat.  In case you are wondering, couscous is basically semolina that has been sprinkled with water and flour and sieved many times until it forms tiny granules.  It is often served in West Africa, but you could also see it in dishes that claim to be French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Turkish, Greek, or Indian.

So if you like pasta or rice with chicken, take the leap and try out this recipe.  It is very light and flavorful and can be served as an entree or side dish.  If you are a vegetarian, try it with fish or shrimp.

2-3 cups cooked cubed chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tsp vinegar (it calls for white balsamic, but I used 2 tsp apple cider vinegar and 2 tsp red wine vinegar)
2 tsp Mural of Flavor (or a spice mix of onion, garlic, lemon peel, cumin, pepper, etc)
1/4-1 tsp ground pepper
2 cups cooked couscous (I used 3 cups)
1 tbs heaping freshly chopped mint
1/2-1 cup toasted pine nuts (those buggers are expensive! I used walnuts instead)
1/4 tsp sweet paprika
3 oz goat cheese

In a skillet, roast the nuts over medium heat for 5-7 minutes, stirring/shaking regularly until fragrant and golden brown.  Sprinkle with paprika and cook for 1 more minute.  Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl.  In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, vinegar, spices and mix well.  Pour over the chicken.  Add the couscous and mix well.  Add the mint and nuts and stir again.  Spoon the mixture onto a serving platter and crumble the goat cheese over the top right before serving.

It took me about 1/2 hour to prepare this meal.  Of course, Mr. PT had to add his personal touch.

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