Friday, August 20, 2010

Lazy Salad: Couscous with Nectarine and Chickpeas

Sometimes, the only way I can stand to put together a more complicated dish, especially from a recipe I have not tested before, is to make something, simple, easy, and, frankly, pretty lazy on at least one of the remaining days of the week. If the lazy dish also makes lots of leftovers that keep well in the refrigerator for a few more future lazy days (or too-busy-to-cook days), so much the better.

Enter a couscous salad with nectarines and chickpeas that I’ve been making for about 10 years. It didn’t start out as a lazy-day dish because I was still learning how to cook. It was probably one of, if not the first thing I made starring couscous. It also was a new way to use nectarines, which I’ve always found to be a bit less elusive than peaches. They seem to be both affordable and good more often.

I must keep buying nectarines every week and then forgetting about them, because I keep finding them in the fruit drawer in the refrigerator. I also happened to have some whole wheat couscous for a zucchini dish I never got around to trying (such is the level of my current laziness). It seemed like a good time to revisit this salad.

Couscous, which is a sort of finely ground dried pasta, is pretty much the epitome of totally easy cooking. Literally, if you can boil water you can make couscous come out just right. All you have to do is stir it into your boiling water masterpiece, take it off the heat and leave it alone for five minutes, then sort of fluff it up to separate the grains. The only delay to your gratification is waiting for it to cool if you’re using it for a salad.

Once the oh-so-difficult task of cooking and cooling the couscous has been completed (really you don’t even have to wait until it is completely cool), just stir up a sweetish vinaigrette with lime juice, honey, cumin and coriander and toss it with the couscous, some chickpeas, chopped nectarines and green onions. I also added some fresh mint, but you could add a different fresh herb that you have on hand, or even some fresh spinach or chard. I also think it would be pretty good with some of the nectarines replaced by chopped cucumber. Peaches could stand in for the nectarines, too, if you happen to have those on hand instead.

Nutritionally, this salad is pretty high end for as low on the effort scale as it is. While I used whole wheat couscous, which added some of the benefits of whole grains over refined, you could use regular couscous. I think it is probably easier to find and the salad will taste just as good. The point is to embrace the laziness embodied in this simple, flavorful dish. Goodness knows we’ll be awfully busy tomorrow.

Couscous Salad with Nectarine and Chickpeas
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, June 2000

1 ¼ cups water
¾ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt, divided
1 cup uncooked couscous
2 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
3 medium nectarines, chopped (about 1-inch cubes)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
¼ cup chopped green onions
1 (15 ½ oz.) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

1. Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add ¼ teaspoon salt and slowly stir in the couscous. Remove from the heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff gently with a spoon or fork to separate the grains. Set aside to cool.

2. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice, olive oil, honey, cumin, coriander and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Whisk until well-combined. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, combine the couscous, nectarines, mint, green onions and chickpeas. Pour the lime juice mixture over the top and stir to combine well. Chill until ready to serve.

Makes about 6 1-cup servings.

Other recipes like this one: Wheat Berry Salad with Sugar Snap Peas and Lemon Vinaigrette, Three Grain Salad with White Beans and Artichokes

One year ago: Summer Squash Casserole with Basil and Onion

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