You know those cookbooks that you just pick up and never want to put down again? It could be because of the stunning pictures, the vivid descriptions of the recipes, or maybe just the luxurious feel of the book itself. With "Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London's Ottolenghi" by Yotam Ottolenghi, it's a combination of the three. The moment I picked it up, I was hooked. In fact, I wanted to lick it, right in the store. Really. I think it was something about the smooth, slightly padded cover with those gorgeous eggplant on it--it just feels so darn good. I didn't lick it of course because, A) I do have some small measure of self-control and B) It was in a bookstore and lord knows who else touched it or didn't exercise the self control I did with the whole licking business.
I brought this book home a few weeks ago and it went right to the bedside table to be savored page-by-page each night and covered with a plethora of sticky tabs. Of course it took me a while to decide what to make. Ottolenghi knows his veggies--each dish sounded better than the next, but it was the Green Couscous that needed to be made first. Gorgeously green and full of healthy, tasty ingredients, it's a stunner. I could have added some feta and eaten it on its own, but it seemed like a perfect match for a simple piece of bright coral-colored wild salmon.
Plenty says, "A good-looking and even better tasting side salad. It has strong flavors and is extremely healthful but still feels light and comforting. Serve it with poached baby vegetables or fish. Adding some feta will make it a bit more substantial."
Adapted from "Plenty" by Yotam Ottolenghi
1 cup couscous
3/4 cup boiling water or vegetable stock
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp chopped tarragon
2 Tbsp chopped dill
2 Tbsp chopped mint
6 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios, toasted and roughly chopped
3 green onions, finely sliced
1 fresh green chile, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup arugula leaves, chopped
Place the couscous in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water or stock. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, fry the onion in the olive oil on medium heat until golden and completely soft. Add the salt and cumin and mix well. Leave to cool slightly.
To make the herb paste. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until smooth.
Add the herb paste to the couscous and mix everything together well with a fork to fluff it up. Now add the cooked onion, the pistachios, green onions, green chile and arugula and gently mix. Serve at room temperature.
Notes/Results: Oh so good! This salad is a wonderful mix of the flavorful herbs, sweet onions, warm smoky cumin, peppery arugula and little hits of chile--plus it is so fresh and pretty to look at. I loved the combination of herbs; cilantro, tarragon, dill, parsley and mint, and it is a great way to use the bounty from my lanai herb containers which are growing off the hook right now. The flavor of the salad was excellent, but it did call out to me for some lemon juice to brighten it up slightly so I added about a tablespoon and it was even better. I used a low sodium veggie stock (diluted) and local baby arugula (so I didn't bother chopping it), and I also swapped in some whole wheat couscous (why not get double the fiber when you can?). When I make it again, I will add more onion--I used one small sweet Maui onion and it was so good I wanted more. This salad was brilliant with the fish and I will definitely make it again. After all--it tastes so much better than licking the book cover! ;-)