Pesto Couscous Salad

July 13, 2007

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When it’s too darn hot to cook, reach for couscous. You may know this incredibly-easy-to-fix, North African semolina as a great bed for hearty vegetable and meat stews. What you’ll be happy to know this summer is that couscous makes a perfect hot weather salad. Mix it with a little Pesto and pile it on lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, whatever summer bounty strikes your fancy. Add olives and flatbread, and you’ll have dinner on the table in no time. SAM

1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 cup uncooked couscous
3 to 4 tablespoons Pesto
1 large head romaine or Bibb lettuce
4 ounces mache or watercress
Thinly sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and/or zucchini
4 ounces Mustard Vinaigrette

In a small saucepan, combine the water, salt, oil, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Place the couscous in a small mixing bowl, pour the boiling water over it, cover, and let sit for 5 or 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add the Pesto, mixing gently but thoroughly. Mix the salad greens and add as many vegetables as you’d like. Dress with vinaigrette or oil and vinegar. Divide the salad among four plates and top with 1/4 of the couscous. Stir gently to mix.
Makes 4 servings.


Pesto

July 11, 2007

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Basil originated in India, where the type called ‘Thulasi’ is still considered holy. In ancient Greece, it was the royal herb, fit only for kings. Legend has it that basil wards off snakes and scorpions, keeps lovers faithful, and opens the gates of heaven to the dearly departed. One bite of this basil pesto and you’ll be a believer. SAM

2 ounces pine nuts
2 ounces fresh sweet basil
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a small dry skillet over very low heat, toast the pine nuts until lightly browned, shaking frequently to prevent burning. Transfer to a counter top to cool. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the pine nuts, basil, garlic, Parmesan, and oil. Pulse with an immersion blender until smooth.
Makes 1 cup.


COOKING TIP: Pesto Variations

July 11, 2007

You can make pesto with any kind of basil, although lighter basils like lemon lack the licorice bite of sweet basil. This recipe also works perfectly with cilantro and parsley, both of which make great pestos. Cilantro pesto is especially good with potato gnocchi. Hmmmmm … another recipe in the works?