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Salad, Grains & Couscous – Part 3

summer-couscous-with-herbs-preserved-lemons

Summer Couscous with Herbs & Preserved Lemons

Light and summery, this couscous can be served with almost any Middle Eastern dish. It is the perfect accompaniment to grilled fish or fish tagines, because the herbs and lemon complement fish perfectly.

PREP : 15 minutes
COOK : 25 minutes
SERVES : 4

  • 2 cups couscous
  • 1¾ cups boiling water
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped or thinly sliced
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ preserved lemon, rinsed and finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the couscous into an ovenproof bowl. Pour the boiling water into a heatproof bowl, stir in the salt, then pour it over the couscous, place a folded dish towel over the top, and set aside for 10 minutes, or until the couscous is tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. Drizzle the oil over the couscous. Using your fingers, rub it into the grains to break up the lumps. Toss in the scallions and half the herbs. Dot the surface with the butter and cover with aluminum foil or wet wax paper. Bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Fluff up the couscous using a fork, then transfer it to a large salad bowl. Toss the remaining herbs into the couscous and sprinkle the preserved lemon over the top. Serve hot.

Cook’s tip : Fluffing up couscous is especially important, because it not only removes lumps but also aerates the grains.

bulgur-wheat-salad-with-roasted-carrots-mint-almonds

Bulgur Wheat Salad with Roasted Carrots, Mint & Almonds

Bulgur wheat is a popular alternative to rice in many parts of the Middle East, particularly Syria and the Lebanon. This is a wonderful, filling vegetarian main dish, and it is perfect for a lunch box.

PREP : 15 minutes
COOK : 40 minutes
SERVES : 4

  • 13 carrots (about 1¾ pounds), cut into small wedges
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1¾ cups bulgur wheat, rinsed and drained
  • ⅔ cup blanched almonds, toasted
  • ¾ cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • large pinch of pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Mix together the carrots, cumin, ginger, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the oil in a roasting pan. Roast for 40 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, put the bulgur wheat into a saucepan and cover with three to four times its volume of boiling water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 8–10 minutes, or until cooked but with some bite. Drain into a strainer, then pour in the remaining oil and mix. Let it steam dry in the strainer for a few minutes.
  3. Transfer the bulgur wheat to the roasting pan with the cooked carrots. Add the almonds, mint, lemon juice, and pepper and mix well. Transfer to a bowl and serve hot or cold.

Cook’s tip : To add extra vegetables to this dish, roast any of your favourite root vegetables with the carrots, or mix in chopped fresh baby spinach with the mint in step three. You could also add crumbled feta just before serving.

chicken-couscous-salad

Chicken & Couscous Salad

The beets in this salad turn everything a deep, vibrant red and glistens jewel-like with the pomegranate seeds.

PREP : 25 minutes
COOK : 20 minutes
SERVES : 4

  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 4 cooked beets in natural juices, drained and cut into cubes
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 pomegranate, seeds only
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 teaspoons tomato paste
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 pound chicken breast strips
  1. Put the Israeli couscous into a saucepan and cover with boiling water. Bring back to a boil, then simmer for 6–8 minutes, or until just tender. Drain, then rinse and transfer to a shallow salad bowl. Add the beets, then the red onion, cherry tomatoes, and pomegranate seeds.
  2. For the dressing, put the juice of one lemon, the flaxseed oil, half the olive oil, and half the tomato paste into a screw-top jar and season with the salt and pepper, screw on the lid, and shake well. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, then sprinkle with the mint and toss.
  3. Put the remaining lemon juice, olive oil, and tomato paste and the crushed peppercorns into a clean plastic bag, twist, and shake well. Add the chicken, seal, then shake until it is evenly coated.
  4. Heat a ridged grill pan over medium–high heat until smoking hot. Add the chicken and cook for 8–10 minutes, or until golden and cooked through, turning once or twice. Arrange the chicken over the salad and serve.

chicken-with-pomegranate-beet-tabbouleh

Chicken with Pomegranate & Beet Tabbouleh

This version of tabbouleh combines whole-grain wheat berries with traditional pomegranate for a modern twist on the classic Middle Eastern dish.

PREP : 20 minutes
COOK : 30 minutes
SERVES : 4

  • 1¼ cups wheat berries
  • 4 raw beets (about 12 ounces), cut into cubes
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small pomegranate, seeds only
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 2½ cups baby spinach
  • Dressing
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper
  1. Fill the bottom of a steamer halfway with water, bring to a boil, then add the wheat berries to the water. Put the beets into the steamer top, cover with a lid, and steam for 20–25 minutes, or until the wheat berries and beets are tender. Drain the wheat berries.
  2. Meanwhile, for the dressing, put the lemon juice, oil, garlic, and sugar into a screw-top jar and season with the salt and pepper. Screw on the lid and shake well.
  3. Put the chicken in a bowl, add half the dressing, and toss well. Heat a ridged grill pan over medium–high heat until smoking hot. Add the chicken and cook for 8–10 minutes, or until golden and cooked through, turning once or twice.
  4. Put the red onion, cherry tomatoes, and pomegranate seeds into a large, shallow bowl. Add the wheat berries, beets, and mint and toss. Divide the spinach among four plates, spoon the wheat-berry mixture over them, then arrange the chicken on top. Serve with the remaining dressing alongside for pouring over the salad.

classic-tabbouleh

Classic Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh is a summery, fresh, and aromatic green salad, in which soft herbs take center stage and onion adds piquancy. It is served with many different dishes in the Middle East.

PREP : 20 minutes
COOK : 10 minutes
SERVES : 6

  • ¼ cup bulgur wheat, rinsed
  • 1⅔ cups finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • ½ onion, minced
  • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of pepper
  1. Put the bulgur wheat into a saucepan and cover with four to five times its volume of boiling water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 8–10 minutes, or until cooked but with some bite. Drain, then rinse and put into a large, shallow salad bowl. Let cool to room temperature.
  2. Mix the parsley, mint, onion, tomatoes, lemon juice, and oil into the bulgur wheat and season with the salt and pepper.

Cook’s tip : Customize your tabbouleh by adding finely chopped fresh cilantro, lovage, or celery leaves.

THE MIDDLE EASTERN KITCHEN
Authentic dishes from the Middle East

Rukmini Lyer