Have I mentioned that it’s really hot? I know, I know—I live in south Texas. What else should I expect, this time of year? But today, on my walk to the mailbox, I found myself muttering a few choice words and contemplating a move back to my homeland way up north in Idaho. Just a temporary move. Just until the snow starts to fly, or the frost starts to coat my windshield, whichever comes first.
This is unlikely to happen, of course. So the only solution was to make another dinner for the family that didn’t contribute (at least, not much) to the heat that my air conditioner was working so hard to keep at bay. In the days when only The Hubs and I were at the dinner table, this evening would have a been an excellent candidate for the Big Giant Salad—greens, plus any other produce that happened to be hanging around in the crisper, plus some sort of protein, plus something extra crunchy (croutons, sunflower seeds, nuts.) The Big Giant Salad is a brand-new creation every time it graces the dinner table.
Which isn’t often, these days. And, given the fact that the Foodie children were such good sports about the lentil “meatballs” earlier this week, I didn’t want to push my luck.
So I did what I often do: I Googled what I had on hand. “Chicken couscous lemon basil” was today’s search string. This brought me a luscious array of options, all of which were going to require more cooking than I wanted to do, many of which required ingredients I didn’t have on hand. But after reading five or six different recipes, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to try. Which brings us to today’s recipe.
Ilove couscous. I always have a box or two on hand, sometimes plain and sometimes flavored. It’s easy to cook—you can boil water in the microwave, stir in the dry grain, cover it with a plate, and you’re good to go in 5 minutes. A 10-ounce box of couscous provides you with 1 ½ cups of uncooked grain, which is what this recipe calls for. For the dressing, I used the juice of two lemons, which gave me about 3 tablespoons of juice. (Don’t forget to zest those lemons and freeze for later use. Lemon zest is the magic ingredient in so many, many things.)
Next time I make this recipe, I think I’ll make it early in the day, or even the night before, so the flavors have more time to blend. I’m looking forward to having leftovers for lunch tomorrow, to see how the flavor has changed. I might also add some chopped, toasted almonds or pine nuts just before serving, for that all-important crunch.
Cold Chicken and Couscous Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing
3 cups chicken broth
1 ½ cups uncooked couscous
1 T. chopped flat leaf parsley
½ tsp. dried thyme
3 T. lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
1 tsp. lemon zest
2 cloves of garlic, minced
5 basil leaves, chopped into small pieces
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 ½ cups diced, cooked chicken
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
Bring the chicken broth to a boil on the stovetop or in the microwave. Stir in couscous, parsley and thyme. Remove the pan from the heat (if you're cooking on the stovetop) and cover it tightly. Let it stand for about 5 minutes, or until the couscous has absorbed all the broth.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, basil, and black pepper. Let this mixture sit until the couscous is ready. Then, add the cooked couscous and stir to coat with the dressing.
Finally, stir in the cooked chicken, scallions and thawed peas. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.