My friend Kylie (who, by the way, as a result of recently reading Eating Animals and some other previous musings, is now feeding her family vegetarian – possibly vegan – meals most days!) sent me recipe for a salad invented by her friend and slightly modified by herself, that she said was awesome. She included this photo:
About the same time, the office manager at work decided that I was to bring in “salad” for our Thanksgiving potluck this week, which left me at a bit of a loss because I kind of consider salad “too easy” and prefer to use events like potlucks as opportunities to expose unwitting people to great vegan cooking. Then Kylie sent me this recipe and it looked absolutely perfect to take to the potluck, so I did. (I’m the type of person who is always making never-tried recipes for dinner parties and potlucks. I live life on the edge. Though at least time I had Kylie’s word it was good.)
For our potluck, I doubled the quantities Kylie sent me, so the photos may depict what looks like an enormous amount of food. The amounts in the recipe I present here are scaled to what Kylie said fed her for 5 lunches.
Couscous Salad with Grilled or Roasted Veggies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 small eggplant
1 small red pepper (Kylie in her Australianness so charmingly calls it a capsicum)
250 grams (9 oz) couscous or 1 cup raw freekeh
water or vegetable stock to cook the couscous or freekeh (use amount called for by package)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 handful sun-dried tomatoes
1 small to medium onion (I cut back on this quite a bit so as not to overwhelm the palates of my fellow potluckers because I managed to skip the paragraph where Kylie said to cook it)
2 scallions, chopped
1 red Thai chili (Kylie called this a bird’s eye chili…I actually used a larger, milder Hungarian wax chili because I didn’t want too much heat in case some people in my office are wimps)
1 can chickpeas
2-3 oz baby spinach
3/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 cup chopped cilantro (coriander to you non-Americans)
For the optional dressing:
juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup olive oil
ground cumin to taste
Prepare the couscous (I used tri-coloured because it’s festive) or grain of your liking. I suggest using stock instead of water.
Cut the eggplant lengthwise into slices about the size of the width of your thumb, rub with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper, then grill it. I used my George Foreman. You can also do it stove-top or roast it in the oven.
Kylie said she sometimes grills her pepper (capsicum) and sometimes sautes it with the other veggies. I roasted mine like this:
Then I put them in a paper bag for about 10 minutes …
… and then removed them …
… at which time their skins peeled right off.
Toast the pine nuts in small, heavy skillet (or in a toaster oven):
Chop the peppers, eggplant, chili, onion, scallions and herbs. Press or crush the garlic. Measure the cumin seeds. Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
Here’s where Kylie’s email had a paragraph I managed to not read: “Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add about 1 tsp cumin seeds. Add onion, garlic and chilli. Cook til onion is soft. This time I put the capsicum strips in here instead of grilling it, and cooked til soft. Take off the heat and set aside.” I suggest following this step to take the bite out of the raw onion and garlic, although mine turned out okay even though I skipped it.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients if you’d like to use it. I thought it gave it a great tangy flavour.
Mix everything together.
This was easily doubled to feed a crowd, or will keep all week for lunches, or would make a nice one-dish dinner. Despite my inability to follow directions (can you tell I rarely use recipes?) it turned out great. I thought I made too much, but every little bit was gone at the end of our potluck and several people told me it was their favourite dish! I’m grateful Kylie thought to pass this recipe along to me when she did because it really fit the bill.