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Monday, June 4, 2007

Something to take to all those summer potlucks

I actually made this a couple of weeks ago, remembered to take a picture and then never got around to posting on it. It's one of my favorite recipes ever: easy, usually assemblable without a lot of shopping, and almost universally popular (though Number One now says he doesn't like it, after eating it like there was no tomorrow as a toddler). The recipe comes from The Barefoot Contessa cookbook. She calls it Curried Couscous, but we call it Couscous Salad.

1 1/2 C couscous
1 T unsalted butter (I usually use a little less)
1/4 C plain yogurt
1/4 C good olive oil
1 t white wine vinegar
1 t curry powder
1/4 t ground turmeric
1 1/2 t kosher salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper (I usually use about half this much)
1/2 C grated carrots (I use a julienne peeler, and blanch them before adding)
1/2 C minced flat-leaf parsley (usually about a whole bunch)
1/2 C dried currants (I usually use a combination of currants and golden raisins)
1/4 C blanched sliced almonds (I use whatever I have on hand, usually diced roasted)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (I chop finely)
1/4 C small-diced red onion (I usually omit)

I usually add:
1/2 C frozen petite peas (has the benefit of shortening prep time by cooling the warm couscous and carrots)

I have added in the past at various times and in various combinations (and really liked--it just all depends on what I have on hand, and this salad is just about impossible to screw up):
1/4 C diced red bell pepper
1/4 C small-diced celery
1/2 C blanched fresh green beans
1/2 C blanched asparagus (snapped into two-inch pieces)

Prepare couscous according to package directions. A note here on couscous: I think the whole-wheat variety is vastly superior to the regular stuff. It tends to be less gummy, has a wheatier flavor, and according to the package has 7 (!) grams of fiber per serving. I used to be able to buy it bulk at our local co-op, but their source dried up and now I buy the Casbah brand in the little boxes.

Whisk yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, spices and parsley in the bottom of a large bowl to blend (I add the parsley to the dressing here so the olive oil can pick up and carry the flavor of the parsley, which otherwise dissipates quite quickly. The same goes for anything with cilantro in it, so I usually add just a tiny bit of oil at the beginning when I'm making salsa. Your handy herb tip of the day.).

Mix in the prepared couscous and all the other ingredients, and voilà! Serve at room temperature or chilled.

I also leave you with a family favorite: Fish Sauce. My dad did (and still does) a lot of fishing, so our menus while I was growing up regularly featured salmon, steelhead and trout that he caught. It was invariably served with this sauce. We try to eat salmon regularly (especially now, when the Copper River sockeye are at the market!), and I often but not always serve it alongside. These measurements are very approximate.

1/2 C sour cream
1/3 C mayonnaise (using light versions of either of these produces grossly unsatisfactory results)
2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
1 t capers, minced
1-2 T fresh lemon juice
optional, and not the way we had it when I was growing up: 1 T minced fresh herbs (tonight, a blend of dill, chives, mint and basil)

Mix everything together and taste. If it tastes sour, add more lemon juice. Counterintuitive, I know, but it works. Bon appétit!



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