Curried Pearl Couscous Salad

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Recently, a very fortunate set of circumstances resulted in the creation of my new favorite summer salad dish.

  • I wanted to make something at the beginning of the week to pack for lunches for the rest of the week.
  • I needed to make sure I had protein, veggies and some carbs in my lunches.
  • I had made my dinner plan for the week and I had an abundance of fresh vegetables leftover, with no plan for how to use them.

The veggies in question were half of a head of orange cauliflower from Pleitez Produce, and a bunch of green beans from Walnut Hill Farm. The lunch setting: lunchtime in the break room. The weather: outside, warm all week with a slight chance of thunderstorms; inside, temperature could range from “balmy” to “beginning of the next ice age.” The goal: build a lunch that fills me up but doesn’t make me feel like I’m reversing all the health karma points I have racked up this week in my workouts.

Based on the temperature, I knew I wanted a cold dish, but with a little kick to keep me warm just in case my office felt like a meat locker this week. I decided to combine my old favorite, Whole Foods’ cracklin’ cauliflower, with a pasta salad to give it a little more oomph. I chose pearl couscous (or Israeli couscous) because I love the texture, but you could substitute the grain or pasta of your choice. Quinoa would be my second choice for its superfood nutrition benefits. I used roasted cauliflower, blanched green beans, fresh tomatoes and roasted chickpeas for the mix-ins, then dressed it all in a curry vinaigrette. You could throw in whatever veggies you have on hand.

I have definitely found my new favorite pasta salad! I can’t get enough of this stuff. I think the dressing is what really makes this salad special. The roasted chickpeas don’t hurt. Mmmm. And (bonus!) this is vegetarian and vegan friendly. Just in time for summer barbecue season.

Scroll past the recipe for a Gardenology update!

Curried Pearl Couscous Salad (serves 4-6 as a meal, 8-10 as a side dish)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of pearl couscous (uncooked)
  • 1 Tbsp oil (olive, coconut, or vegetable)
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, or half of a large one, cut into florets
  • 1 15-oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 handfuls of green beans, snapped and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes, sliced into halves
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Toss the cauliflower and chickpeas together with the 1 Tbsp of oil, spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, and roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Cook the couscous according to package instructions. I added my 1 cup of couscous to 2-1/4 cups of boiling water, then reduced heat, covered, and cooked for 10-12 minutes. Pour out of pan and into a large bowl. Let cool.
  4. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add green beans and cook for 2 minutes. Then remove green beans from hot water and plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
  5. While everything cools, prepare the vinaigrette. Whisk together curry powder, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and olive oil until combined.
  6. To the large bowl of couscous, add cauliflower, chickpeas, and green beans. Toss with the dressing. Add halved tomatoes and stir until combined.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

 

In other news, I have some green beans in my garden! Here are some gardenology progress photos:

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The first harvest was nine green beans. If I don’t get another thing out of this garden all summer, at least I can be proud of the nine green beans I grew from seeds. Never mind that that achievement probably requires the skill of a third grader. I am a remedial gardening student, okay?! It’s the little things.

For more BYOBB (bring your own brown bag) lunch ideas, type BYOBB into the search bar.

Farmers’ Market 06.02.12 and the Return of Gardenology

Kyle picked up some great stuff at the market this week. The selection at the SOJ Market has expanded so much that it is really easy to do some creative meal planning around what we bring home on Saturday morning. In early spring, I would have to creatively use asparagus three times a week. Now in June, there is so much variety. I couldn’t be happier about the arrival of summer squash, and I even featured it as the Vegology Veg of the Week at the cooking demo last weekend.

Here’s what my handsome gatherer brought home to me this week:

  • Onions (Pleitez Produce)
  • Mixed Greens (Victory Farms)
  • Carrots (Victory Farms)
  • Turnips (Victory Farms)
  • Summer squash (Pleitez Produce)
  • Curry fusilli. . . I think (Bombolini Pasta)

In other news, I am pleased to announce the return of Gardenology. Remember when I started a patio garden last year? If not, you can read about the adventure here: Gardenology. It’s okay, I’ll wait. I have plenty of plant watering, shades wearing and sundress rocking to do while you catch up.

All finished? So, as you can see, my garden has grown a little since last year. I have also learned a bit from my failures adventures in gardening last summer, so I am hoping that I will grow something (anything!) in this 4-by-8-foot vegetable incubator I have built with my own two hands.

I decided on a raised bed because our soil is full of clay and rocks, and I didn’t feel like trying to blend it with better soil to try to make it work. Plus I am pretty sure that is an advanced maneuver, which I am clearly not ready for yet. A layer of landscaping fabric separates our backyard dirt from the organic garden soil that I used for planting. This is supposed to help minimize weeds and keep that nasty clay dirt away from my lovely little plants. I think it is working well, although I am pretty sure I have a weed or two in there that looks like a tomato plant so I’m just nurturing it for now until it grows big enough for me to identify it as an intruder.

How about some progress photos?

April 8, 2012

May 19, 2012

June 3, 2012

I have a feeling that the garden is progressing kind of slowly, but most of the seeds sprouted and I don’t believe I have killed anything yet, so I should eventually get some vegetables out of it. I am not expecting much since I am horrifyingly incompetent when it comes to gardening, but I am doing my best.

Let’s have a closer look.

Zucchini flower – good sign, no?

Empress Green Beans

You say tomato

Pokey Peppers, taking their time

I planted:

  • Several types of tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Eggplant (no sign of life yet, maybe they were duds)
  • Zucchini
  • Sweet peppers
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Some herbs

I used heirloom seeds for almost everything and organic soil that is meant for vegetable gardens. I just realized that might be why my garden seems a little slow. No chemical growth-boosters! I had an issue early on with bugs eating the leaves on my green bean plants, so I started using an organic spray called EcoSMART Garden Insect Killer. The active ingredients are rosemary oil, peppermint oil, thyme oil and clove oil. As far as I can tell, this has been working, and I am glad that I don’t have to either use chemicals or spend hours handpicking bugs off of the plants.

I will post another update when I have some garden news for you. Please leave tips in the comments or send me an email if you have any useful advice to share. I need all the help I can get!