29 January 2010

pre-thanks: moroccan couscous and chard salad

So this is another dish that I made for our Pre-Thanks dinner back in November.  I made it to contrast with the other salad that I always make, because I wasn't sure if there'd be enough food for the vegetarians to eat.  There ended up being way too much of everything, but this was a tasty enough experiment that I'm glad I made it anyway.   The portions for this were huge, so feel free to adjust/halve/whatever.

  • 2 cups of Moroccan couscous
  • 1 bunch of rainbow chard (which had I think maybe 12 stalks)
  • 6 baby cucumbers
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • one handful of fresh cilantro
  • peanut oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt/pepper/garlic to taste
This ended up being a "warm" salad because of the prep involved.  The Moroccan couscous needs to be cooked a little more like pasta than regular couscous, albeit for a very short time frame.  So boil water, drop the couscous in, lower temperature to medium and simmer for maybe ten minutes.  Just keep trying it to see when its done.  

While the couscous is doing its thing, you should be chopping chopping chopping.  The cucumbers don't turn into slices on their own.  If you haven't ever cooked with chard, its is quite beautiful:

(lovely chard photo borrowed from my bay area garden)

Okay get ready for a mini-chard tutorial:

You're going to steam the chard.  First though, you separate the stalks from the leaves because the stalks take longer to steam and you don't want to leaves to be mushy.  So, position your fingers along the stalks just before where the leaves start, and you'll want to use basically a sliding motion to strip the leaves off.  It won't be a clear tear every time, but keep at it.  The stems obviously at some points are sort of insubstantial and blend into the leave, the main thing is to separate them based on how long they'll need to cook, so if they look skinny and tender, don't worry if they're with the leaves.  Put the leaves to one side and the stems to the other.  You'll then want to cut the stems into maybe two to three inch pieces and rip leaves into, say, baby spinach leaf-size pieces (trying to cut them after steaming is hilarious but not very effective). 

What, you don't know how to steam stuff?  Sigh.  Get the pot with the couscous.  But the couscous into the bowl with the chopped cucumbers, fill the pot back up with an inch or two of water.  Put the stove on high.  The water should boil up right quick especially if you use the eye that the couscous had been on before.  On top of the pot, put a metal strainer, like this or this.  Putting stuff in the strainer should mean that they are suspended over the boiling water but are not in it.  You can put a pot lid
on top of the strainer to hold the steam in more.

So put the stems in first, maybe 5 minutes before the leaves.  All in all, this should take 15 minutes tops, and that's really only if it takes you awhile to get the water boiling.  So now you dump in the chickpeas, chop the cilantro and drop that in, season with peanut oil & lemon & salt/pepper.

(... et voila!)

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