Saturday, December 3, 2011

Light Saturday Lunch: Couscous, Bean and Vegetable Salad

I don't think it's a coincidence that two of my favorite ways to spend my free time, cooking and knitting, are both activities I associate with my grandmother.  So, it was nice to bring together these two activities today when I hosted a few friends at my apartment today for lunch and knitting lessons.

For lunch, I prepared a couscous, bean and vegetable salad.  The couscous was Bob's Red Mill Tri-Color Pearl Couscous.  The orange and green colors in the couscous come from tomato and spinach.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, pearled couscous is larger and rounder from regular old couscous.  I happen to prefer pearl couscous, or, as it's sometimes called, Israeli couscous, to the other kind.

I prepared two cups of the couscous according to package directions (1.25 cups of water for each cup of couscous, bring water to boil, add couscous, bring back to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes).  Since the couscous will absorb all the water, it has a tendency to stick to the pan, so stir it occasionally.

When the couscous was done, I transferred it to a bowl and immediately poured in a generous amount of my lemon vinaigrette (the same dressing I put on my salad for Wednesday's pasta and salad dinner).  A tip if you're reusing the vinaigrette & it's been refrigerated - let it come up to room temperature and shake it to help it recombine a bit.  Pouring the vinaigrette on the hot couscous helped the flavors really combine - you could smell the lemony goodness waft through my kitchen.

I then added one can of black beans (rinsed first), two handfuls of carrot shreds and a few generous handfuls of arugula.  I then seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper and let it set out at room temperature until my friends arrives.  Because of the vibrant green and orange of the arugula and carrots, the tri-color couscous didn't pop as much as I thought it might, but it was still good.

I also made some roasted brussels sprouts & shallots that folks could eat on the side.  I think I am on a mission to revive the reputation of the brussels sprout and let people know it can indeed be a tasty vegetable if prepared properly!

For dessert, we had some fresh strawberries provided by my friend Marie, as well as some vegan cookies provided by my friend Elena.  The Andean Dream Chocolate Chip Cookies are made with quinoa.  They're wheat-free, dairy-free, soy-free and made in a tree-nut free facility, so they are great for folks with allergy issues and gluten intolerance, but who are also living a vegan lifestyle.  And, they're tasty!

We also sampled Pamela's Ginger Cookies with Sliced Almonds.  These are also wheat-free, gluten-free, soy-free and non-dairy, but not appropriate for those with nut allergies.  They're chewy, gingery and tasty, which is a welcome treat after my sad discovery that the ginger snaps I've been getting have soy in them.

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