Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Summer Couscous Salad with Lemon Eggplant

   Have I mentioned that I want it to be summer? Its a funny thing, but on my facebook feed this morning, I saw someone in Thailand complaining about the 100 degree weather there, and longing for New England snow. And I? I would do anything to get away from the snow and enter hot weather. Even 100 degree weather. I'll take it. That being said, we only have to wait another twelve weeks and six days until we board the plane for our quick 25 hour journey to Bangkok. And no, I'm not counting down...

   Because of the outrageous ticket prices, Nick and I are basically on a spending freeze, which means I've been getting very creative in the kitchen to make our food last as long as possible between grocery shopping trips. Thanks to the farm, we pretty much always have a huge variety of dried beans, as well as some grains like quinoa, barley, and couscous at hand. The couscous they have at the farm is a Lebanese variety, but I think its exactly the same as Israeli couscous. Before using it, my only experience with the grain was the stuff that comes in the box and cooks in five seconds. The Lebanese kind is very different, and oh-so-delicious.
It looks like this:

And it cooks up just like pasta. Boil a pot of water, salt the water, pour however much you want into a pan, and cook for about fifteen minutes, or until they are al dente, and strain them. So tasty. Anyway, I put together this cold summer salad with 'grilled' eggplant for our dinner last night. I made all of it in advance, so when I got home from work, all we had to do was assemble it and eat it. Which is my favorite way to cook dinner.

Chewy couscous mixed with cucumbers, carrots, and arugula, drizzled with a tangy, creamy mustard dressing, and topped with grilled lemon-y eggplant. This dish was surprisingly filling-- I had about half the amount pictured above and was stuffed. 

Since the salad is meant to be served cold, its best to make it in advance. But in a pinch, just run the couscous under very cold water after its finished cooking to achieve a cool salad. Anyway.

First, boil the coucous. I used probably about 1 1/4 cup dry couscous for 4-5 servings. If they were my size servings, maybe we'd have gotten closer to 6. But Nick size servings drop it to about 3...

Moving on. Slice an eggplant in half, and then slice the halves into pieces of medium thickness. 

Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick baking spray, and place them all in a row. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour 1 tbs olive oil into a small bowl and use a pastry brush to coat each slice in a little bit of oil. 
Squeeze a lemon half over them and then sprinkle some salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper on top. Its up to you how much you want to put on them. Just don't over-salt them.
Bake them for about fifteen minutes, or until they are soft and browned on top. The ones that I cut too thin went black on top...so be careful about that.

Pop these into the refrigerator, and get started on the salad.

I used 1 whole cucumber, two carrots, and about two cups of arugula. Peel the cucumber and the carrot, chop them up into small chunks, and add them to a bowl. Add the cooked couscous on top, and then the arugula.
For the dressing, mix 1 tbs olive oil, 3 tbs apple cider vinegar, 3/4 tbs mustard (I used spicy brown), 1 1/4 tbs light mayonnaise, 3 tbs milk, 1/4 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt. Whisk all the ingredients together, and then pour over the salad.
Mix the salad until everying is combined, and then put it into the fridge until its mealtime. 

This would make a great barbecue salad for the summer too as an alternative to (super mayonnaise-y) macaroni salads. 
   When you serve it up, top each plate with a few slices of eggplant and dig in. We had ours with a slice of crusty, homemade rosemary-sea salt bread. Which some day I will post on here. Because it is so easy. And it sounds really fancy that I made bread, but its actually not. Its embarrassingly simple. 
And then, dine in darkness which according to this picture is what we do.

Fingers crossed  that Spring really comes soon. I'm sitting in front of a space heater now and trying to gear myself up to put my outside running clothes on and take the dog for a good long jog. The sun is out. But I know its lying.

Twelve weeks and six days.

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