Saturday, May 31, 2008


The overindulgence of the holiday season has likely more than caught up with everyone… Well, even if you don’t want to admit it, I will do that for all of us. I have gone on a salad kick for January. Partially in one of those futile New Year’s resolution type pledges and partially due to the fact that I was getting tired of taking the easy road and eating out… constantly.

This is a make-shift Tabbouleh recipe to help you with your post-holiday detox. I’m not AT ALL fussy about measurements with this recipe. I find that your personal tastes will dictate the ratios of the vegetables, grains and herbs. This is an easy salad to experiment with. I’ve had a good base in the fridge for the last week. I can have it as is… or, if I am bored, I can add tomatoes, more cucumber, green peppers, feta or whatever suits the mood of the evening!

Shall we introduce… Couscous – Couscous is a small, granular pasta made of predominantly of semolina (coarsely ground durum wheat). It is North African and Middle Eastern in origin. The couscous found at the grocer’s has typically been pre-steamed then dried, leaving you with the task of refreshing it with a hot liquid (water or stock).

The Health Factor…
Tabbouleh (or Tabbouli) is often made with Bulgur Wheat (Burghul), which has higher nutritional value than Couscous. I haven’t been so ambitious as to use Bulgur, but may at some point. Couscous is definitely easy to prepare and has been a staple in my pantry, which is likely the reason that I use it rather than Bulgur. Bulgur is made from Durum Wheat Berries that have been cooked, dried, then crushed.

Ingredients Required
Couscous (ethnic foods aisle)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Parsley, cilantro or mint…
Lemon Juice
Olive Oil
Garlic Supplies Required:
A Couple of Bowls
A Knife
A Spoon…
(Yep, we need all the fancy kitchen tools for this recipe! ha.)

Make it, then make it your own…
1. Take out all ingredients and supplies required. Make sure that you have a clean and ready workspace. I learned from my Momma that it is definitely easier to work and cook when everything is in its place… I can hear her, “mise en place! mise en place!”
2. Measure out one cup of water. Add salt. You can use chicken or vegetable stock, instead of water, for added flavour. Don’t add salt to a stock without tasting it first. Some stocks (especially the packaged kinds) can have a lot of salt already. (It’s a good rule regardless: Taste, then Season.) Bring to a boil. Measure out one cup of couscous.
3. Once the water is boiling. Add the couscous. Stir through. Cover and set aside (off of the heat) for five minutes. While the couscous is “cooking,” you can get the rest of your ingredients ready.
4. Chop a cucumber. Use as much or as little as you would like.
5. If you’re in the mood, finely chop some garlic… or opt for laziness and use a bit of the pre-chopped or crushed garlic that you can buy in a jar in the veggie section of the grocer’s. It’s just SO easy! Again, add to your own taste.
6. Chop the herb(s). In terms of a ratio, we’re talking about a lot of green here. About 200g or a large bunch (don’t use the stalks in your salad though). I have a tendency to add whatever herb caught my eye at the grocery store. This week, it was Italian Flat Leaf Parsley. Other times, it has been regular parsley. Once or twice, when I have had the temper for it, I have used cilantro. Some recipes suggest adding a bit of mint (about one part to four parts of parsley for a good flavour balance). Personally, I have to be in the mood to use certain herbs (such as cilantro) but that’s the great thing about cooking… you can add whatever you enjoy most.
7. After five minutes, the couscous should be rehydrated. Fluff with a fork.
8. Make sure that your bowl is large enough to give everything a good mix. Combine couscous, cucumbers and herbs.
9. If you were chopping garlic earlier, add this to a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and lemon juice. (The olive oil to lemon juice ratio is about three to two… but taste test!) If not, add your olive oil and lemon juice, then stir together. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Preferences again… I like less oil and lemon (for a drier salad), but add LOTS of freshly ground pepper and a healthy smattering of kosher salt.
10. Tweaking to suit your mood: Following the 9 steps has given you a good, fresh base salad. I can eat this all on its own. BUT! Sometimes that just isn’t interesting enough. For something different, add little grape tomatoes (one of my new favourite ingredients), spring onions, feta cheese (Be conscious of the salt though!), etc. Try something new… What’s the worst that can happen?!

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