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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Grilled Vegetable Couscous Salad

For a confirmed meat-eater like myself, everything tastes better with crisp bacon, grilled sausage, or a roasted meat. Michelle's new diet has challenged me to come up with dishes that are as flavorful as she's used to but focus on vegetables.

Experimenting with recipes has sent me searching for ingredients I often over-looked. In our pantry I discovered packages of couscous, dried beans, and polenta, all gifts from the Il Fornaio Passport program.

If you haven't eaten at Il Fornaio, I'd like to recommend the restaurant. We have been regular customers of the Santa Monica Il Fornaio ever since it opened. We appreciate the friendly service, fresh ingredients, well-prepared dishes, and affordable prices. And we enjoy the Passport program and its monthly gifts. When the gifts are ingredients to make at home, Chef Maurizio Mazzon provides easy-to-follow recipes for each.

As an end of summer dish, couscous with grilled vegetables seemed like a perfect dish to make for Michelle. Traditional couscous requires a lengthy cooking process. Il Fornaio provided a quick-cooking couscous, which I recommend. This recipe is indebted to Chef Mazzon.

Grilled Vegetables Couscous

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups couscous (quick-cook style)
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons olives, cracked green or kalamata (pitted, finely chopped)
1 basket cherry tomatoes (washed, quartered)
1/4 cup capers (chopped)
1 cup Italian parsley (leaves only, washed, finely chopped)
1 ear of corn (husks and silks removed, washed)
1 carrot (washed, peeled, trimmed, cut into slabs 4"x1/4")
2 garlic cloves (washed, trimmed)
1 ripe avocado (optional)
1 bunch arugula (optional)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Drizzle olive oil onto a flat plate, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, roll the corn on the plate to coat with the seasoned oil. Do the same with the carrot slabs and garlic cloves. Lightly brown on a hot grill or roast in a 350 degree oven for 10-20 minutes, turning to avoid burning. Let cool , finely chop the carrots and garlic. Cut the kernels off the cob.

As Chef Mazzon instructs, boil the water with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. In a non-reactive bowl (stainless steel or glass) mix together the couscous with the salted hot water and 2 tablespoons olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

To the couscous, add the carrots, corn, garlic, parsley, capers, olives, and cherry tomatoes. Add another 7 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss well. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sea salt or black pepper. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Variations

Add grilled broccoli (treated in the same way as the carrots).

Serve with arugula.

Serve with a sliced avocado.

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