This could also be zucchini inspiration #5 as another way to use up a few, if unlike me you have prolific plants. It is kind of ironic that I have searched out all these zucchini recipes in preparation for my annual glut and for the first time mine are pretty paltry, actually paltry is an exaggeration - I have had one, yes just one, zucchini and they are fairly sad looking little plants overall. Absolutely no idea why, as they usually don't require any undue attention and have always produced vast quantities of zucchini in the past. Maybe they have noticed how neglected the rest of the garden has been this summer and taken umbrage!
Many more hours would usually have been spent in the garden but since Toast, cooking and blogging have prevailed, added to that following and reading numerous other fabulous food blogs and re-joining the twittersphere and following more foodies just leads to more reading about food, more cooking, and even less time for my poor neglected garden. So thinking the zucchini have gone on strike in protest. Not so for the tomatoes, they are coming along nicely and if above the ground growth of the potatoes is any indication of their harvest it is going to be bountiful! Bring on the spuds.
So I was flicking through some old magazines for some interesting salad inspiration to liven up week 2 of my healthy kick start to 2011 and came across a couscous one in an old issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. Lot of fresh vegetables, healthy, and couscous covers off allowing me to feel satisfied. What really appealed though was the dressing, a totally new combination for me. Pomegranate molasses, honey for sweet, preserved lemon for fragrant and a little sumac for a little sour to balance it all out. It just all sounded so fruity and fragrant.
Sumac: Sumac comes from the berries of a wild bushy sumac shrub that thrives in poor soils and grows wild in all Mediterranean areas and parts of the Middle East. The highest quality sumac berries comes from higher altitude areas. In autumn the clusters of red sumac berries are picked just before they fully ripen and are then dried in the sun and crushed to form a coarse purple-red powder. It has a mild, aromatic aroma and tastes a little sour, a little fruity and a little astringent, so for this dressing a great contrast to the sweet and fruity. Sumac brings out the flavours of the food much like salt.
Thyme and Orange Couscous, Summer Vegetables and Pomegranate Dressing, adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller
The original recipe calls for zucchini flowers as well and I didn't happen to have any, but if you do feel free to add them in. Grilled red peppers would also be a nice addition. I was also missing coriander and added in some spring onions for a fresh onion crunch. For the couscous no zest in the original, but I love zest and the fresh bright flavour it adds to just about anything. I also left out the butter and doubled the thyme, love the flavour and the couscous looked so pretty flecked with the little green leaves.
For the vegetables
1 -2 cups carrots, sliced on an angle
2 zucchini, halved lengthways and sliced on an angle
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp mint, roughly chopped
For the couscous
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp thyme leaves
Juice and zest of one orange
Salt and pepper
For the dressing
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp honey
1/2 preserved lemon, pith removed and finely chopped
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp sumac
1 tbsp olive oil
For the couscous, place couscous, olive oil and 1 tbsp of cold water in a large bowl. Rub with finger tips to combine. Add the thyme and pour over 400ml boiling water, stir and cover with cling film. Set aside for about 15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and season to taste, it will take a good seasoning. Add the orange zest and juice and mix together, leave to stand for a few minutes.
For the vegetables; heat a griddle pan or BBQ, or you could also use a frying pan with a little olive oil and saute. Season the vegetables with a pinch of salt and pepper and grill until almost cooked through, you still want a little bite. The zucchini will only take a moment or so each side and the carrots a moment or 2 longer.
For the dressing; mix all the ingredients together in a jam jar and give it a good shake to combine everything together.
To serve toss the vegetables with the dressing, pile up on top of the couscous, top with the mint and spring onion and you have one light summer supper.
The vegetables still had a bite and were full of flavour, their natural flavours brought out by the grilling. The spring onion and the mint gave a clean fresh flavour against the fragrant fruity dressing. It really is the dressing that makes this salad, it just packs a real punch. A little sweet, that fruity explosion from the pomegranate molasses then the fragrant, almost perfumed preserved lemons and all balanced with a little sour from the sumac. It would also work well just drizzled on some grilled chicken.
If making it for lunch just pack up all the ingredients separately and toss the vegetables with the dressing just before serving.