Letâ€™s be honestâ€”no one is short on zucchini this time a year. Whether a neighbor gifts you bags of this summer squash or youâ€™re the farmer doing the gifting, it can be turned into a side dish for a Mediterranean feast.
“My neighbor stopped by and gave me some free zucchini,â€ť says Brett Olson, explaining the inspiration for his Chickpea Couscous salad. “I wanted to create a side dish that had a Mediterranean flavor to accompany our beef shish-kabobs with yogurt-cucumber sauce and pitas.â€ť
Olsen is co-founder of Renewing the Countryside, one of the organizers for the premierÂ FEAST! Festival and Tradeshow held in Rochester, Minn., Nov. 2-3, 2014. FEAST!, which brings together organizations, businesses and individuals committed to growing a sustainable food system, is the largest event of its kind in the Upper Midwest, featuring more than a hundred local, artisan specialty-food producers and craft-food makers. Olson tends to be a walking food encyclopedia when you get him talking.
“For the vegetables in the salad, they needed to be small,â€ť he says. “I mixed them in well with the couscous, a pasta composed of small granules of durum wheat dough. I used my Benriner Japanese Mandoline with a medium cutting blade for just the right size zucchini strips.â€ť
What makes this recipe stand out is the toasted almonds and cumin seeds used to season the salad. Donâ€™t skip this step! Toasting the almonds, instead of using them raw, brings out a more pronounced, nuttier flavor without significantly diminishing their nutritional benefits. Ditto for the cumin seeds. By toasting the nuts and seeds on the stove, you can keep a closer eye on them than if you placed them on a pan in the oven.
Recipe: Chickpea Couscous Salad with Toasted Almonds and Cumin Seed
Yield: 8 servings
- 1 cup couscous
- 1 cup dried garbanzo beans (In a pinch, you can used canned garbanzo beans.)
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 1/2 T. cumin seeds
- 2 medium zucchini or summer squash, finely julienned
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/8 tsp. pepper
In medium pot, prepare couscous according to package directions. Set aside in bowl to cool.
In medium pot, cook garbanzo beans until soft. Drain and set aside in bowl to cool. (If using canned beans, simply drain and rinse.)
In sautĂ© pan over medium heat, toast almonds with cumin seeds for 3 to 5 minutes or until aromatic, stirring regularly to prevent burning. Once toasted, quickly transfer to bowl to cool. (Leaving them in the hot pan will continue to cook them.)
In large bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss liberally well mixed. Garnish with a sprig of oregano. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.