Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Squash Couscous with Sultanas, Pistachios and Mint

Summer, meet your new favorite salad.  The cool, light nature of this Summer Squash Couscous with Sultanas, Pistachios and Mint immediately caught my eye: I loved the idea of tossing the earthy zucchini against warm-hued sultanas and pistachios in zesty citrus kissed with olive oil and honey. The overall result though was a hundred times better than I even expected—I really cannot stop raving about this dish!

I used whole wheat pearl (Israeli) couscous, my new favorite grain. The plump, juicy grains of toasted whole wheat flour create a playful texture on your tongue, and easily absorb the cooking broth and tangy dressing. Each pearl is saturated with delicious, summer flavors; and hints of garlic shine through the lemony sauce.

The pistachios play off the natural nutty flavor of pearled couscous, which are dotted harmoniously amongst sweet golden raisins, crisp zucchini squash and refreshing mint. I substituted the shallots for scallions to make a more oniony bite; which I really enjoyed against the sugary sultanas and hint of honey. Finally, fragrant vegetable (or chicken broth) hones a warm undertone to complete the truly delectable light summer salad.

A quick note: don't be daunted by the amount of ingredients! Most are pantry items, and the preparation is anything but laborious—perfect for a large-batch weeknight dinner (that you can also take to lunch or school the next day.)  Serve as a side to grilled fish or chicken, or turn the salad itself into a complete, filling meal by adding grilled shrimp or cannellini beans.

Summer Squash Couscous with Sultanas, Pistachios and Mint (from Food52)
Serves 4 side portions

1 tablespoon lemon zest
Juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon honey
Olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/4 cup veggie (or chicken) stock
1 cup couscous (preferably pearled, such as Bob's Red Mill whole grain)
1/2 cup diced yellow squash
1/2 cup diced zucchini
1 medium shallot, finely chopped (or 2 scallions, minced)
1/2 cup sultanas/golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped pistachios
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, and 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and let them steep for about 30 minutes.
2. Next, bring the veggie or chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Cook the couscous according the package directions (about 5 minutes for regular couscous; 20 minutes for pearled couscous.)  When all liquid has been absorbed, toss the couscous with a fork to prevent clumping. Set aside in a large mixing bowl.
3. In a skillet over medium high heat, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then, add the chopped squash and zucchini, shallot/scallion, sultanas, pistachios and a pinch or two of salt. Only cook for about a minute or two -- you still want the squash and zucchini to be al dente.
4. When the veggies have reached room temperature, add to the bowl with the couscous and combine.
5. Remove and discard the cloves of garlic from the dressing, and toss with the couscous.  Fold in the mint, season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Serve cold or at room temperature.

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