I was in the library looking through the cookbooks, hoping for some inspiration for side dishes to serve at our annual Memorial Day Weekend barbecue. My husband is grilling the meat and making German potato salad and red cabbage, so the mainstays of potato salad and cole slaw are kind of taken. There will be plenty of kids, so I may make a fruit salad, but I want a few more things to put out, especially salads that are not mayonnaise-based, so I can leave them out on the table for a while.
I started flipping through a cookbook called “Cowgirl Cuisine” by Paula Disbrowe. She spent time in Texas as a youngster, but most of her adult life was spent in New York, and she cooked in Europe for two years. She came back to Texas to cook on a resort-type ranch and ended up buying her own piece of land and settling down here. I liked the recipes I was reading, and when I got to the Salads section and read, “I’ve always been a salad freak,” I figured there was potential there.
I found several I want to try, but the one I put below is a fresh-tasting salad with the punch of hot chiles and cool mint. I like that it’s filling, having couscous and not just vegetables. I know the kids won’t be into it, but we’ll probably just be shoving food into their mouths as they run by in a wild pack anyway, so oh well.
Got any favorite sides you’d like to share with me? I’m still looking for a few more …
Lean and Green Broccoli Couscous
1 box (10 ounces) couscous (scant 2 cups)
1 bunch broccoli (florets and peeled, chopped stems), about 4 cups
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
4 scallions, minced
1 serrano or jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon capers
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Juice of 1 medium lemon, plus more as needed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. There are two ways to prepare couscous. Follow the package directions (adding couscous to boiling water and covering until cooked) or Malika’s method, which takes more time. Malika was the Tunisian chambermaid at the château where I cooked in France. Place the couscous in a large bowl and drizzle it with a small amount of very hot water. Then use your fingers to mix the couscous with the water, cover it with a dish towel for several minutes, and allow the grains to absorb the moisture. Add more hot water every 15 minutes or so, mixing the grains with your fingers each time, until the couscous is tender and fluffy. This method results in tender pebbles of couscous that have a more toothsome texture. It’s easy to do if you’re going to be in the kitchen for a while.
2. Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt and the broccoli. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, until the broccoli is just tender. Drain in colander and briefly rinse with cold water. Finely chop the broccoli.
3. Combine the cooked couscous and remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon juice, salt or olive oil as desired.
Serves 4 to 6.
Written by: Shannon Oelrich