Sunday, January 13, 2008

Yesterday's made up on the skytrain on a Saturday afternoon salad (wait, is it a salad?)

It doesn't look like much, but it was so good. Lately I've been more into making stuff up than following recipes. I think it's because of the feeling of satisfaction from creating something out of just a bunch of veggies and things in jars in my cupboard. Like, look what it turned into! It's so delicious! Also, this method means I can spend my bored-on-transit time (of which I seem to have an abundance) creating a menu and grocery list in my head rather than having to be organized enough to do this at home with my cookbooks.

This meal was pretty quick and easy to make, and both Darryl and I agreed that is was really really tasty (the 3 helpings kind of tasty). It's not really a salad, 'cause we ate it warm (opinions on whether a salad can be warm or not?) but I'm not sure what else to call it, so...

Israeli couscous and navy bean salad
1 cup dried navy beans
3 cups cold water
1 head garlic, unpeeled

2 cups israeli couscous* (uncooked)

1/2 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves finely chopped
6 slow-roasted roma tomatoes (see recipe below), diced
4 scallions, minced

1/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
salt and pepper, to taste

Put the beans and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let soak 1–2 hours. Drain and rinse the beans, then place back in the pot. Fill the pot with more water, and throw in the head of garlic. Simmer 1–1 1/2 hours, or until beans are soft and creamy in texture. Drain and discard the garlic. [note: I'm starting to cook more beans from scratch like this, and finding them really yummy, but you could definitely use canned navy beans if you're short on time]

About 1/2 hour before the beans finish cooking, prepare the rest of the salad. Cook the couscous just like pasta, boiling it in a big pot of salted water until it is tender. Braise the kale until it is quite soft (I just threw it into a pot of boiling water and checked it every few minutes, then drained it when it was done). You want the kale to be soft enough to incorporate into the salad smoothly.

Whisk together walnut oil, vinegar, basil, and s+p. Adjust quantities to taste (I rarely measure anything when making salad dressing, so the above quantities are a very rough guess).

Combine everything in a large bowl and stir to coat it all with dressing. Serve topped with grated cheese if you like (we used Kashkaval, a yummy Bulgarian sheep's cheese that I get at the Mediterranean deli in our neighbourhood). We had this with a salad of lettuce, supremed oranges and my sister's amazing pickled beets, with a lemon-mint vinegarette – so good!

Slow-roasted tomatoes
These are one of those great staple things that once you learn how to make them you'll do it forever. They're so easy, if you've got a couple of hours to hang around.

roma tomatoes, quartered
olive oil, salt and pepper, and chopped basil and/or rosemary

Pre-heat the oven to 275 degrees F. Place tomato quarters skin-side down on a baking sheet and brush with a mixture of olive oil, salt and pepper, and chopped herbs. Bake for about 2 hours. How long you cook them will depend on how dried you want them to be. I like mine when they're still quite juicy in the middle. They'll be similar to oil-packed sundried tomatoes, except juicier and a bit crispy on the edges. Try it out and experiment with timing and temperature until you get them the way you like.
* From wikipedia: Israeli couscous, also known as maftoul or pearl couscous, is a larger version of couscous and used in slightly different ways. In Western cooking it is often used as a bed for salmon or chicken dishes, or put into salads... Israeli couscous is a version of North African Berkukes, introduced by immigrants from various parts of North Africa in the early 1950s, and Levantine Maghrebiyya (from the Maghreb) common in Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Couscous was meant to provide a rice substitute for those immigrants from eastern Arab countries and from Persia, where rice was the staple grain. Unlike North African couscous, Palestinian couscous (Maftoul) is not semolina at all, but rather a toasted mixture of bulgur and flour.


Anonymous said...

Hi Meg,
Soaking the beans and pouring off and using fresh water prevents the "side effects" of beans, if you know what I mean, in fact soaking, then pouring off water, then new water for cooking, then the pour and rinse that you did works really well. Lots cheaper than canned beans and you can always freeze the ones you don't use. This is recipe no. 2 of made up ones for your book, right!!??
Looking forward to the ice cream!!!!!!

Laura said...

Like the improvisational cooking going on lately! It sounds delicious, and so does the accompanying salad. So does that make it a salad accompanied by another salad? I'm going to suggest that your dish is actually a casserole, which wiki defines as usually consisting "of meat and/or vegetables and sometimes bulked with pasta, potato, rice or other grains cooked slowly in sauce or other liquid, and may be served as a main course or a side dish."

Hmm. What do you think? Like the couscous coda too, btw.