Thursday, June 23, 2011

Couscous with Spiced Zucchini

Summer has officially arrived. I know this not because of the dusky sky at 9pm (although that is my favorite thing about the whole season) or the fireflies on our nightly walks through the cemetery down the street, but because we have zucchini and summer squash in our weekly CSA share. It started with just a few small specimens that ended up buried in the fridge beneath the bunches of spinach, scallions, and arugula. But this week, crates of gigantic zucchini were available alongside our regular allotment. One of my faults: not being able to turn down free food.

In the first few weeks after a new bit of produce arrives at the market, I tend to eat it raw, sprinkled with salt or sugar or olive oil or fresh herbs. I've never gotten on board with raw zucchini, though, and the ominous sky tonight precluded any grilling plans I might have harbored. Earlier today I was flipping through Bon Appetit's slideshow of summer cooking inspiration and came across an innocent suggestion: serve zucchini and mint together. This reminded me of an old favorite, and dinner plans were hatched. 

This seems a little bit like a late season zucchini recipe, in that zucchini really isn't the star. It's heavily spiced, almost Indian in flavor, with a good kick from the chili powder and that herbal splash of mint. I like this best at room temperature, when the softened zucchini and onions fully join together with the small couscous grains. It's a perfectly transportable summer lunch or a good dinner when you don't want to spend much time in front of a hot stove.

Couscous with Spiced Zucchini
Adapted from Gourmet, September 2005
(Serves two as a main course, or four as a side dish)

I doubled the spices called for in the original recipe; I found it a little bland otherwise. The mint is a nice addition, but I've made the dish many times without and still enjoyed it.

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup plain couscous
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 lb zucchini (4-5 small or 2-3 medium), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
Bring broth with 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil, then pour over couscous in a bowl and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside. 

Heat oil in a skillet over moderately high heat until hot, then sauté onion with 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add zucchini and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderately low, then stir in coriander, chili powder, cumin, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Gently stir zucchini mixture into couscous and cool to warm or room temperature. Just before serving, stir in mint and lemon juice.

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