Lately, I've been planning my days around very limited outdoor exposure. I dress the Frenchies in their winter coats and make a mad dash into the sub-zero air. Coaxing the dogs to do what they have to do as quickly as possible, we then run back inside. After an extremely short trip to visit family in southwest Iowa this past weekend (and to see the Wabash Wine Company's who-done-it mystery, "The More The Murderer" written by our friend Bill Danforth), we left sunny skies and highs temps predicted in the 50's, only to end up driving through white-out blizzard conditions by the time we reached the Minnesota border. Hard to believe that two years ago in January I was out riding my bike in record warmth. It's just crazy...
Because of the cold, I'm also limiting trips to the grocery. Many of our meals have not been planned ahead; I just buy anything that looks good and find a use for it once I'm back home. Fortunately, I happened to have all of the ingredients I needed for this Couscous Salad of Roasted Vegetables and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. It was delicious alongside baked salmon.
+ Couscous Salad of Roasted Vegetables and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
adapted recipe from Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jérome Audureau
• 1/4 cup dried currants
• 1 1/2 cups boiled, unsalted water for the couscous
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 small eggplant cut into 1/2-inch cubes
• Kosher salt (for sweating the eggplant) and freshly ground pepper (for roasting the vegetables)
• 1 zucchini, diced fine
• 1 yellow squash, diced fine
• 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
• 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
• 1 red onion, diced fine
• 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
• 10 Marinated Sun-Dried Tomatoes, julienned
• 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, then coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips (or PRESERVED BASIL)
1. Combine the couscous and currants in a large bowl. Pour the boiling water along with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over the couscous. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and steam the couscous in the hot liquid for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and fluff the couscous with a fork; set aside. PREHEAT OVEN to 450˚F.
2. In the meantime, place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with a thin coating of salt, about 1 tablespoon. Stir the eggplant gently and set aside for 20 minutes to "sweat" its bitterness.
3. Combine the zucchini and yellow squash in a medium bowl along with 1 minced garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a grinding of pepper. Drizzle with 1 table of the olive oil and mix gently. Spread the vegetables onto a non-stick sheet pan and roast on the middle rack of the oven for about 8 to 10 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until just beginning to brown -- Do not overcook the vegetables or they will fall apart when tossed with the couscous. When finished roasting, add to the couscous.
4. Toss the bell pepper and onion, a minced garlic clove, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and a grinding of pepper with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread onto the sheet pan and roast for 10 to 15 minutes (stirring occasionally) or just until the vegetables are beginning to blacken. Scrape vegetables into the bowl of couscous.
5. Over a sink, shake the colander to remove as much liquid as possible from the eggplant. Toss eggplant with remaining minced garlic, a grinding of pepper, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. It is not necessary to add any additional salt to the eggplant. Spread onto the sheet pan and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until eggplant browns and the flesh has softened. Scrape the eggplant mixture into the bowl of couscous and vegetables.
6. Add the balsamic vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, and basil to the couscous and stir very gently to combine. Serve at room temperature. Salad will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
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