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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Couscous and Bulgar Salads are Affordable, Easy to Make and Oh So Good for You

My wife is on her way to her parents' house in New Jersey. She packed her clothes, bathroom kit, and Walter Mosley's latest detective novel, The Long Fall. I wanted to contribute to the weekend's meals even if I wasn't going with her. I put together a small packet with a mini-apple pie, a banana chocolate chip walnut cake, freshly cooked black beans, brown rice, grilled broccoli, bulgar salad with celery, and a box of whole wheat couscous. All but the couscous were ready to eat.

When we visit her parents, I usually do some of the cooking under her mom's supervision. The first time I cooked in Helen's kitchen I was showing off my then-specialty: whole roasted chicken cooked at high temperature. The impact on her kitchen was regrettable. The "high heat" was so high that her corningware roasting pan exploded. The resulting splatter on the inside of her oven took several days to clean. Needless to say I didn't make the best first-impression on my prospective mother-in-law. Luckily the chicken was delicious but I haven't used her oven since.

Couscous is one of Michelle's staples, so she took along a box of whole wheat couscous from Trader Joe's. Since she hadn't made it before, I wanted her to have the recipe for the weekend.

The recipes for couscous are the same as for bulgar. They are delicious as salads and side dishes. They accommodate any number of vegetables and herbs.

Couscous or Bulgar Salad with Celery

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup instant couscous or fine grained bulgar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 celery stalk, washed, leaves removed, finely chopped
1 scallion, washed, ends trimmed, finely chopped
5 Italian parsley sprigs, leaves removed, washed, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Boil the water. Put the couscous or bulgar into a bowl, add the water, stir, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.

Using a fork, fluff the couscous or bulgar, add the rest of the olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper to taste, toss with the celery, scallion, and parsley.

Serve at room temperature as a salad or a side dish.

Variations:

Add chopped raw tomatoes

Add Iranian cucumbers, washed, peeled, finely chopped

Add 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion

Add currants

Couscous or Bulgar with Grilled Vegetables

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup instant couscous or fine grained bulgar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large carrot, washed, peeled, ends removed, cut into 1" long slabs, 1/4" thick
1 large broccoli crown, washed, cut into 1" long slabs, 1/4" thick
5 Italian parsley sprigs, leaves removed, washed, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper

Boil the water. Put the couscous or bulgar into a bowl, add the water, stir, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.

Toss the carrots and broccoli pieces with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and black pepper. Grill or roast in a 350 degree oven until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool and finely chop.

Using a fork, fluff the couscous or bulgar, add the rest of the olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper to taste, toss with the cut up carrots and broccoli.

Serve at room temperature as a salad or a side dish.

Variations:

Add 1/4 cup corn kernels, seasoned with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper, grilled or roasted

Add 1/4 cup olives, pitted, chopped

Add 1 cup spinach leaves, no stems, washed, roughly chopped

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