Tonight the Critic was off at another boring official function and so I was left to my own devices culinarily speaking. When this happens I often eat junk food for dinner or nibble on bits of cheese and odd leftovers from the fridge. But every once in a while I take advantage of his absence to make something creative that I know he wouldn't like. Tonight, the ingredient of choice was couscous.
I don't know why my beloved husband has taken against couscous. To me it seems such an innocuous grain. A little nutty, a little nubbly, as inoffensive as white rice. Also, it's typically a vehicle for extremely spicy Moroccan stews and my man LOVES spicy food. Whatever the reason, he hates the stuff.
I love it. And I especially love it in the summer time because it's light on the stomach, requires only a bit of boiling water to prepare and makes a healthy salad. Perfect for the hot summer days we've been enjoying (well, suffering really - this country is sadly lacking in air conditioning).
The nice thing about this salad is how well the timing worked. All the elements pieced together well and it took about 15 minutes start to finish to assemble the whole thing. I know that salads are traditionally 5-10 minute meals in terms of assembly, but this one involved three cooked items. So 15 minutes is pretty good I think!
Grilled Chicken and Couscous Salad
2 chicken breasts
2 Tbs spicy dry rub (a combination of paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, cumin but you can create your own - make it fairly spicy!)
1/2 head of broccoli
8 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup almond slivers
3/4 cup uncooked medium grain couscous
1/4 cup fresh chopped herbs and shallot (I used the mélange pour salade available in Picard stores in France, which includes chives, parsley, basil, thyme, shallots and chervil)
juice and zest of half a lemon
1/3 cup good quality olive oil (I used Rowallan Olives from Australia)
a generous pinch of salt
Pour 3/4 cup boiling water over the couscous grains in a large bowl and cover with a plate. Cut the broccoli in small florets and set them to steam. Rub the chicken breasts with the spices and put them on a hot grill. (Okay, I admit that the 15 minute estimate relies on your having a gas grill, which heats immediately. If not, use a grill pan.) Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters, depending on how large they are. When the broccoli florets are tenders, remove them from the flame and quickly run cold water over them to stop them cooking. Turn over the chicken breasts. Use a fork to fluff the couscous. Toss the couscous with the tomatoes, broccoli, almond slivers, herbs, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Once the chicken breasts are cooked through, cut them in bite-sized slivers and add them to the salad. Taste for salt: couscous can be a bit bland without it.
Serves two generously for dinner or three smaller salads.
I took a photo of this dish, but it didn't turn out nearly as appetising looking as it was in reality. I should have taken the photograph before I tossed it, when the vegetables were colorful and pretty: once you toss them with couscous everything is covered with grains and less pretty. So you'll just have to imagine it. It shouldn't be too difficult!