Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Dragon Salad (or Whole Wheat Couscous with Roasted Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic Dressing)

My Dears,
    Just in case there was any doubt (and I know there often is), food really CAN taste good AND be good for you. Last night, we had our monthly meeting for Fairy Tale Book Club, and this month, our theme was DRAGONS. And, insofar as possible, the food we bring to the Book Club meetings follows the theme of that meeting. As one can probably guess, our food theme to go along with discussing dragons was Roasted/BBQ, hehehe :) Some of last night's offerings included Blackened Chicken bites, BBQ Pulled Pork, Fruit Salad that resembled the jewels dragons are so famous for hoarding, bread fresh from the oven, roasted veggies, Dragon Eggs (hard boiled eggs dyed with tea) and my offering,Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic Dressing :) (Perhaps it is a stretch to call it Dragon Salad, but it sounds cool, so, indulge me, pretty please?)

  Lately I've been trying to be a good little monkey and incorporate more whole grains and veggies into my diet. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love veggies, but I seem to stick mostly to salads, and there's so much more to choose from than that. There are very few vegetables that I don't like, I'm just fussy about how they are prepared. Most veggies I prefer raw to cooked, with the notable exception of tomatoes. I love tomatoes cooked, but I really don't care for them raw, it's a texture thing. As a matter of fact, that's one of my culinary 30 by 30 goals, to find a method of preparation wherein I actually like raw tomato, but that's another blog.

 This salad is sort of a step in that direction. The tomatoes are slow roasted at a low temperature so they don't really caramelize, they just get less squishy and more sweet :) Still a ways out from good local tomatoes around these parts, gotta get a little farther into summer (but the local strawberries will be here soon, wheee!!!). However, even non-local tomatoes will taste great after a quick roast in the oven, and all the herbs in this dish were fresh cut from my very own herb garden, chilling out in pots on the back patio :)

  As the awesome Alton Brown once said "There are no bad foods, only bad food habits". All things in moderation around here, no deprivation, no guilt. However, that being said, it is absolutely true that some foods are more nutritious than others, and this dish focuses on some of them. Whole Wheat, Tomatoes (yay Lycopene!), Extra Virgin Olive Oil, etc. Lots of "Eat Well, Feel Better" goodies in this one, I'm proud of it :) And taste? Um, yeah, it's delish :) Now, to give credit where credit is due, the original recipe is another from the chef I want to be when I grow up, Deb at Smitten Kitchen. What you see here is my version, altered to my tastes. It completely disappeared at my Book Club meeting :) You know, if it wasn't me talking, I'd say I wasn't half bad at this cooking business ;)

 This one tastes like Summer, when the whole world is alive and my favorite things happen :)

Whole Wheat Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Roasted Garlic Dressing
 ( inspired by this recipe from Deb at Smitten Kitchen)

For Dressing and Roasted Tomatoes
- 2 pints red grape or cherry tomatoes
- three large garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup warm water
- Juice of 2 lemons ( fyi, not all the juice will be used at once)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper

For Couscous

- 2 3/4 cups vegetable broth (chicken broth would be fine too)
- 2 1/4 cups Whole Wheat Couscous ( I used Fantastic World Foods Whole Wheat Couscous, 2 1/4 cups is basically the contents of 1 box.)
- 1/2 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped.
- 1/3 cup ( about 1 handful) torn or chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup torn or chopped fresh mint (again, about a handful)
- 1/3 lb (or any decent-sized chunk) Israeli Feta Cheese (I use the kind packed in brine that you can get in little plastic tubs at Wegmans)

- Preheat oven to 250 degrees Farenheit
- Halve tomatoes through stem ends ( from top to bottom, not across the middle) and arrange, cut side up, in one layer in a large, shallow baking pan.
- Add garlic to pan and roast in the middle of the oven until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around the edges, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on rack for 30 minutes. (See Notes)

Note #1- It might just be my oven being weird, but my tomatoes were not done after one hour. I raised the oven temperature to 300 degrees and gave them an extra 15 minutes in the oven, and that did the trick :)

Note #2- When the tomatoes came out of the oven, I just balanced the pan over a burner on my stove, which elevated the cooling tomatoes the same way a cooling rack would. Also, I didn't cool them the full 30 minutes, it was more like 15 or 20, and they were fine.

- While tomatoes are roasting, bring the broth to a boil in a 3 qt. saucepan. Stir in couscous, let simmer in pan for about two minutes. Cover pan and remove from heat, let stand for 5-10 minutes (or, if you're using boxed couscous, just follow the cooking directions on the package).

- Spread couscous in 1 layer on a large baking sheet and allow to cool for 15 minutes. When couscous has cooled, run your (clean!) hands through it to break up any clumps.
 - When garlic is cool enough to handle, peel the garlic and using a small knife chop the garlic very finely and press and drag the knife through it until it becomes a paste. Mix the garlic with the olive oil, warm water and the juice of one lemon in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup and whisk until combined. (Alternatively, you could throw the garlic cloves, water, oil and lemon juice into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, I was just too lazy to go drag out said appliances, so I did it by hand).

- Transfer couscous into large bowl and stir in dressing, tomatoes, olives and fresh herbs. Crumble the feta cheese over the salad. Toss to combine with clean hands or large spoon. Adjust seasonings to taste. Salad can be chilled if you are not serving it immediately, but should be served at room temperature. Right before serving, Squeeze the juice of the second lemon over the salad a give it one last toss to incorporate.

- (salad components can be made one day ahead, just keep the tomatoes, dressing and couscous separate, covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature,combine and serve :)

                                                                 NOM NOM NOM :)
Be Well:)


Nubby Tongue said...

I'm so, SO in love with your book club! It sounds like the funnest thing ever. And it feels good to see that I'm not the only one grossed out by sqwooshy raw tomato. Blech!

Merlyn said...

I LOVED this salad! And the Dragon night ROCKED! (or should I say...ROARED! :) Yum Yum Yum!!!

a. maren said...

oo i want to be part of a fairy tale book club!

this looks so good, and such perfect summery ingredients! love it!