CousCous with Dates, Almonds and Roasted Lemon Dressing

Do meals call to you? An occasion presents itself  and from somewhere in your stack of cookbooks or your grandmother’s recipes, you hear a meal…calling to you. Perhaps it is Eggs Benedict for a lazy Saturday brunch? BBQd ribs for the 4th of July? Spaghetti Carbonara on Wednesday? For me, it is quite frequently a chicken I hear calling for Sunday dinner. In the spring, you can poach it in milk, a la Jamie Oliver. In the summer, I like to butterfly the bird and grill with some lemon and rosemary. When the weather turns colder, it is a nice roast chicken with crispy skin straight from the oven that I hear.

In all honesty, this particular meal has called to me a lot over the years so I find myself looking for ways to mix it up a bit. A few Sundays ago, I tried a Moroccan roast chicken that I found on-line. It sounded so lovely…a paste of paprika and herbs rubbed under the skin with some  lemons quartered and tucked away in the roasting pan. I am not sure if it was the recipe or user error, but let’s just say that this dish won’t be calling to me for a while. However, all was not lost as I salvaged the roasted lemons and turned them into the most beautiful dressing for my couscous…a true lemonade out of lemons occasion.

CousCous with Dates, Almonds and Roasted Lemon Dressing
or what I fondly refer to as the “1/4 cup salad”

  • 1 1/2 cups of couscous
  • 3 cups of water
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup of pitted dates, cut into smallish pieces
  • 1/4 cups of dried cranberries/blueberries/whatever you like
  • 1/4 cups of slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup of diced green onions
  • 3/4 cup of chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • the juice from one roasted lemon (see above)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp white sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon (optional but yummy)
1) Bring 3 cups of water (with a small pinch of salt added) to boil on the stove.
2) Add the couscous, give a good stir, cover, and remove from heat.
3) While your couscous is doing it’s thing, retrieve your lemons from whatever roasting pan they have been in and squeeze them though a fine sieve, until you have all of the juice they are willing to give up.
4) Add the sugar, cumin, and the cinnamon if you so choose. Whisk lightly.
5) Pour in the olive oil slowly, whisking as you do. If you are unhappy with the consistency of the dressing, feel free to add more olive oil.
6) Be sure to taste here to ensure you have the balance of flavours you like. Fiddle accordingly.
7) After your couscous has remained at rest for about 15 minutes, remove the lid and give it a good toss with a fork.
8) Add the dates, dried fruit, almonds, green onions and chickpeas and mix it up.
9) Finally, add the dressing and give everything another good stir.
In hindsight, had I known that roasting the lemons would give the dressing such a nice depth of flavour, I would have cut up a few more, rubbed the cut side with a bit of olive oil and tossed them (cut side down) in the roasting pan. Next time, I most certainly will.
Bon Apetit!

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