Couscous with Yellow Zucchini & Kale
I never really know whether to consider making a couscous dish as cooking- it is just so simple and doesn't usually even take place on the stove top for most of us... which is probably also one of the reasons that we all like making it so much!
There is hardly anything quicker or easier- or even as versatile as couscous- it loves to take on flavors and to be transformed into any number of dishes. This evening I decided to make a dish using yellow zucchini and raw, Tuscan kale- also known as "cavolo nero" or "black cabbage" in Italian... so you already have 2 main colors right there- not to mention the red peppers and chili flakes and the green of the fresh oregano. You might want to grab your sunglasses whilst I tell you how to make this- as you can see, it's a mighty colorful combination!
As well as the kale and zucchini, I had a few more ingredients to add to my couscous to make it wonderful and delicious... some fresh oregano, some onion and sweet red pepper and some dried apricot and raisins- perfectly contrasting flavors and textures to make this into a real treat! Not sure? Well take a look and see and then decide for yourself...
The only prep-work that needs to be done is to pluck the kale from the stem and tear it into bit-sized pieces and then to finely dice the pepper and onion and to cut the dried apricot into fine slices too... you want everything to be of a similar small size, so that they will all "cook" together in roughly the same time once covered in boiling water... which will be the next step...
And here you can see it- the couscous and all the other ingredients, just-about covered in boiling water. At this point I added salt and pepper and the juice of a lime, so that the flavors would be absorbed by the couscous as it soaks up the juices from all of the fruits and vegetables... very easy stuff!
Allow the couscous to sit for 5 minutes or so until most of the liquid has been absorbed... in the meantime you can be slicing up that yellow zucchini as thinly as possible!
After 5 minutes were up, I started to add more flavors... a tablespoon of tahini and a sprinkle of regular, hot chilli flakes- this will wake you all up a bit!
Next come the zucchini slices and the fresh oregano, together with a good drizzle of olive oil... but see how I have laid the zucchini out? Side-by-side and not on top of each other is the best way to do it, so that they do not simply slide and stick together, but mix in to the couscous nice and evenly... again, just a simple little thing but if you don't do it this way... all of those zucchini slices will slide together and you will not get them nicely integrated and coated with all of the other goodies in there- just you mark my words!
Once the couscous was nicely blended together, I added a generous sprinkle of some of the wonderful, mild, shrimp-flavored chili flakes that you can get at most good Asian (Thai) supermarkets... I love these! They add just a hint of rich, shrimp flavor, which makes all the difference!
If you can't get these, then add a little Thai fish sauce maybe, or failing that anchovies or anchovy paste. The reason I say this, is that I discovered how wonderfully the flavor of anchovy, or any other rich and salty fish goes with zucchini on my trip to Rome last year- and I wanted to try out something similar in this dish... so for me- it was shrimp this evening... and if you can do the same- I surely recommend it!
I let the finished couscous sit and gave it 5-10 minutes for the flavors to mingle together thoroughly... enough time for me to take my pictures this evening to be precise... but after that- I grabbed that spoon and decided I needed to find out for myself how good it was!
And I have to say it was pretty amazing! The sweetness of the dried fruits, the light bitterness of the kale and the mild zucchini went wonderfully with the vibrant flavor of the fresh oregano and lime juice- and the chili just lifted things up just that one notch higher! Again- get those shrimp flakes if you can... you won't regret it! Just have some fun and keep things quick and simple like this and you won't go far wrong in the kitchen ;-)