Smell My Olive Pits

A blog dedicated to my love affair with all things food

Couscous salad with a bit of everything April 14, 2009

Filed under: Salad — smop @ 10:30 pm

Just before I head for a holiday, I try to clear the perishables in the fridge — it makes me feel better than if I were to throw it out.  In a way, it makes for a bit of spontaneous experimental cooking, though given I can probably spend a day just trying to think of the best way to combine everything so that it would be edible, it’s not all that spontaneous.  Anyway, this was what I came up with after realising that the olives, carrots, and spring onions that had been sitting in the fridge for a week didn’t look like they were going to last a few more days in the fridge.

couscous-tuna-olives2

Couscous salad with a bit of everything

Ingredients

Serves 1

  • 1/2 cup dry couscous (water + a bit of butter)
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Moroccan spice powder
  • 1 small tin of tuna (spring water or natural smoked), drained
  • 8-10 black olives, sliced
  • 1 spring onion, sliced
  • salt + pepper to taste

Method

  1. To prepare the couscous, place the dry couscous in a heatproof bowl and to it add a small knob of butter, a grind of salt and 1/2 cup of boiling water.  Give it a quick stir, and cover for 2-3 minutes.  Uncover, and fluff up with a fork.   Set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat, add the carrots and allow to cook for a minute or two.  Add the Moroccan spice powder, a few grinds of salt and pepper.  Cook for another minute.
  3. Add the tuna, olives and stir through until just warmed through.
  4. Add the couscous and spring onion.  Stir until everything is mixed through.  Serve warm or cold.

It actually ended up to be better than I had thought it would turn out — I suspect it could taste even better with a squeeze of lemon juice or a glug of good olive oil before serving and some fresh herbs.  All the possibilities!

Now for a bit of trivia … it was pointed out to me, the Moroccans don’t eat tuna or spring onions, so in spite of the couscous and Moroccan spices, it can’t be a Moroccan dish.  Nonetheless, if you’re not averse to the idea of pairing couscous with anything, it’s certainly something worth experimenting!

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Chicken salad February 12, 2009

Filed under: Chicken,Salad — smop @ 7:12 pm

Sorry for the lack of updates!  I have been cooking and taking photos, but have just been putting off the writing part.  So now, that I have still a couple more sections of my thesis to write, I decided it would be a good idea to blog.

These warmer days are seeing a comeback of the salads.  I love a good salad – the ideal salad is one that has a mixture of textures, and a balance of flavour and colour.  Often, the simpler the better it is.  For dinner, I usually make one with three different kinds of veg and some form of protein.  I don’t when I started having salads for dinner — it just sort of happened.  On the hotter days, I would put together a salad of spinach, rocket and beans in the morning, leave it in the fridge for the day so by the time I came back, I’d have something that would tempt my appetite on a warm evening; while in winter, I’d roast pumpkins / sweet potatoes / potatoes / carrots, throw them in with some salad leaves and grill a lamb steak or chicken thigh.  It was a quick and easy meal and I got hooked.

I started off using bought dressing for my salads, and sometimes I would try tweaking it to suit my own tastes.  After watching a lot of Jamie Oliver and reading food magazines and blogs, I ditched the Kraft / Paul Newman dressings,  bought some extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and started experimenting with vinegarettes.  There is a heap of creative freedom with vinegarettes so long as you follow the 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar or lemon juice (just something acidic) – you can add mustard, honey, garlic, spices, etc … Earlier this year I started experimenting with natural yoghurt and in summer when mint, dill and basil are at their best, they make a delicious dressing (even if I say so myself!).

The other day I felt like something light for dinner, so a salad it was.

The veg

I like the peppery taste of rocket, sometimes I add baby spinach or a mesculan mix.  I have an aversion to iceberg lettuce.  If you’re using onions, the Spanish onions (the red ones) or white onions are preferable; and make sure to slice finely – nothing worse than a mouth full of onions and then onion breath.  Phwoar!  Add carrots, capscium (according to Martha Stewart, red caps with 3 knobs on the bottom are better for salads as they are sweeter; 4 knobs are better for cooking), mushrooms, roast veg … whatever!

The protein

This time it was 2 chicken thighs. I cooked it in the easiest way I know how to cook chicken (and also my favourite way) — there’s nothing to wash up, uses hardly any oil, and is extremely versatile.  This was actually the first thing I did first so I could use the cooking time to make the salad and dressing.  It’s all about being efficient!

Preheat oven to 180oC.  Line a baking tray with foil and then baking paper (hence the no washing up part).  Take the chicken thigh (breasts are too dry for my liking but if you like it, go for it), spray with olive oil and sprinkle any form of spice on both sides.  This time I used a Southern blend spice, but I’ve used Cajun, Moroccan, mixed herb, garlic salt, lemon pepper…

Pop in the oven till done (15-20 minutes depending on the size of the thighs).  Cool slightly then slice.

Allow the meat to cool slightly before adding it to the salad mix otherwise you’ll have wilted salad leaves, unless of course that’s what you’re going for.

Dressing

I hardly measure out the amounts of things I use which makes it difficult to write up – but basically it is (roughly) 3 parts oil to 1 part balsamic vinegar, a semi crushed garlic clove, salt and pepper and chili flakes.   Let the garlic to infuse into the oil until the chicken is done, and when ready, discard the garlic clove, give the dressing a quick mix and pour over the salad leaves.

I could write up the other dressing recipes I use, but I think the fun part of making salads is making the dressing – taste and adjust and you’ll eventually find the right combination for your own tastes!