Friday, March 22, 2013

Lunch Club

Once every month or month and a half, a group of my colleagues and I get away from the cubicles at noon, take over one of the conference rooms, and instead of discussing statistical theories, enjoy delicious foods prepared by each other. We have a fun little Lunch Club, which has revealed many great cooks in the group. I can't tell you what feasts these gatherings turn into - we always struggle to get back to work while in food coma! It's nice not to worry about work for some time and talk about our lives outside of the office.

For this month's potluck, I made a simple make-ahead dish. It saved me the hassle of cooking early in the morning and worrying about how it would taste after reheating. A quick, tasty couscous salad which can be made ahead and served chilled.

Couscous, which is semolina flour rolled into little pearls, is softer and fluffier when cooked than semolina itself. I love all sorts of pilafs made with couscous, but my latest fad has been a cold salad with Mediterranean essentials and cranberries! I've eaten variants of this salad at many restaurants. This dish hardly requires any cooking skills; the only somewhat challenging part being the actual cooking of couscous. To make sure it doesn't become too clumpy and dense, I add a dash of oil to it while cooking. Also, it helps to be conservative with the amount of water. You can always add some warm water if the couscous is not cooked completely. And if you can help it, don't turn couscous vigorously - cooking in a non-stick pot on medium heat will help.

**Please note that the measurements in the recipe below are approximate. You can add as many or as little of the veggies/beans as you like.

Couscous Salad With Cranberries

1 1/2 Cups dry couscous - the smaller variety
Vegetable stock - optional
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Small garlic cloves - minced
1 Small Persian cucumber - finely chopped
1 Small tomato - finely chopped
2 Scallions - thinly sliced
1/2 Cup cooked chickpeas
1/4 Cup dried cranberries and toasted almonds
2 Sprigs of basil - julienned
Juice from 1 lime
Salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste

  • Cook couscous according to package instructions. For a more full bodied flavor, use half vegetable stock and half water in cooking. Also, salt it while cooking so it mixes more evenly. 
  • Heat oil in a pot and add minced garlic and saute for a minute until golden brown. Add cooked couscous and turn gently. Then turn off the heat.
  • Add all the veggies, chickpeas, cranberries, almonds and basil. Sprinkle juice from one lime, and season with cracked pepper to taste.
  • Use a fork to mix everything together. This will fluff up the couscous while making sure it doesn't break.
You can dress up the salad with feta cheese. I find it very satisfying the way it is. The salad is not too heavy, but doesn't make you hungry just few minutes after eating it. My favorite part of the dish are cranberries that soak up lemon juice and excess moisture and become plump. Alternatively, you can add raisins or chopped dried apricots for that sweet, chewy bite. 


Priyanka said...

As always, nice and simple recipe! Thanks Snehal. I have pre-seasoned couscous, would definitely try this recipe! And Potlucks are always fun. :)

Snehal said...

Thanks, Priyanka! I'm no expert at gardening but will try to do a post based on my trial n errors.

Puja @ said...

Snehal, I love that you added cranberries. Sounds yummy!


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