If you long to become a creative cook, read on. I think I found a key to that magic place. Where we will eat this great Couscous Salad with Spinach and Olives.
There are those days that I peak in my fridge and only see tons of little plastic boxes. Sometimes they’re doggie bags with restaurant leftovers, more often a variety of boxes with all kinds of bits and pieces from earlier home cooked meals. Fridge orphans, I like to call them. Like in the old tales; once loved, now about to be neglected.
Okay, see what I did there with those last 4 words?
Of course, I will try to eat them. I suck at throwing away food.
My plan was to eat couscous. I knew Mr. Eats would love to finish the piece of tri-tip that I slow roasted on my Wood Pellet Grill over the weekend and I could go vegetarian with feta that I always have in my fridge.
So I grabbed whatever I found in my veggie drawer: a red bell pepper getting wrinkly, dill from a cooking class, scallions, the rest of the spinach I didn’t use for my Pasta Popeye and some toasted and chopped nuts (cashews, I think). And just before I closed the doors, I piled the little plastic box with the home-made salsa verde on top of the rest.
Salsa verde, my home-made version of the classic Italian sauce made from capers and parsley. Garlic and lemon juice. And fresh thyme, just because I had it. It was great over Sunday’s beef with carrot purée, but you only need so much of the slightly tangy sauce to spice up any dish.
I used it as a quick flavoring of my couscous.
Usually I don’t mix and match dishes from different cultures, but in this case I didn’t hesitate to combine this Italian salsa verde with the Middle Eastern couscous. First, they eat couscous in Sicily. Second, I wasn’t planning on eating couscous the traditional way. I rather beef it up (pun intended), as plain couscous is rather plain and boring to me. Third, I was planning to go tabouleh style, only with the ingredients I had on hand. Fourth, and main reason, I knew it would give my couscous that little extra je ne sais quoi. And boy, it did!
And now, while I’m writing this, my blog club friends are sitting at my dining table too, waiting till I get up and use the leftover salad and add some other ingredients for our lunch. If you’re on my mailing list, you’d already know how I beefed this leftover in a nice lunch. <start infomercial> So make sure next time you get those extra recipes and tips that I share with my mailing list peeps too, and sign up. See elsewhere on this page. <end infomercial>
Couscous Salad with Spinach and Olives
For a salad like this you can mix and match with whatever you have on hand. I always like to use dried fruits, nuts, fresh herbs, veggies and some green leaves to pile it up on. Finally, I sometimes add olive oil and something acidic (preserved lemon juice below, but normal lemon juice, a vinegar will work too).
The base is vegan, but you can add cheese, eggs and meat to your liking. This was my dinner version that I ate with some cubed feta and beef:
1/2 cup couscous
1 cup vegetable stock
1 t chopped preserved lemon (make them yourself!)
2 t + 2 t preserved lemon juice from the jar
4 dried apricots
1/3 red bell pepper
5 twigs dill
2 T nuts
2-3 T olive oil
salt + pepper
2 hands of spinach
2 T olive oil
8-10 big green olives
feta or a boiled egg for the vegetarians
beef or chicken for meat eaters
Tip: If you have any salad dressing or a salsa verde like sauce (yes, even Mexican salsa or Argentinian chimichurri are great), use them to add more flavor in this salad. They bring not only more ingredients, but also some acidity and oil to the dish.
Prepare the couscous. Bring stock to a boil and pour over the couscous in a boil. In the mean time, chop your other ingredients. Chop the dried apricots into minuscule cubes and add to the couscous so the can absorb some of the stock as well.
Work on the flavorings. Chop all other ingredients as fine as you like. I cut the bell pepper super fine, as well as the preserved lemon. Chop scallions, dill and nuts.
Mix all chopped ingredients in the couscous, add olive oil, salt and pepper. Taste the couscous and add extra acidity, oil, salt or pepper to your liking.
Serve the couscous on the spinach leaves that you dress up with the extra olive oil and preserved lemon juice and the halved olives on top.