Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Garden Fresh Couscous Salad

This morning as I was browsing Pinterest, trying my hardest to ignore the mountains of laundry and dirty dishes piling up around me (okay, not quite, but I was definitely avoiding packing for this weekend's camping trip), I ran across a "recipe" for bacon-wrapped corn on the cob.  Then (okay, maybe there were a few dirty dishes waiting for me) I found one for deep-fried corn.  I started searching for the most ridiculous corn recipes I could find (who needs clean laundry, anyway?).  Chocolate fans will be disappointed to learn that my search for "chocolate-covered corn" did not result in tips for dipping whole ears in chocolate, but I did find chocolate-covered caramel corn and chocolate-covered corn dogs.

Seriously, people?  Just because you can do it, doesn't mean you should.  Bacon is delicious.  Chocolate is delicious.  Deep-fat frying is fattening and, well, delicious.  But why ruin a perfectly good ear of corn with that stuff when you can turn it into this wonderfully fresh and flavorful couscous salad?

This is one of my favorite summer salads, and it's perfect for a picnic or Memorial Day cookout (you can even pair it with your bacon-wrapped bacon).  The fresh corn (please don't use canned or frozen unless you absolutely must) is my favorite part, but the feta, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and couscous certainly don't hurt, either.  Toss it with a light vinaigrette, and you can almost eat this stuff as a meal in itself (and sometimes I do).

The best part is that almost all of the ingredients are frequently available in the co-op.  Corn is only $0.16 an ear this week at Meijer--the best price I've seen yet this season.  I have used both regular and whole-wheat couscous with equally delicious results.  If you can't find it in the co-op, it's okay to buy the less expensive couscous mixes--just leave out the seasoning packet.  I usually buy my feta from Aldi, but next time I'd like to get it from George's International Market (on the corner of Broadway and Taylor).  I can't remember the exact price, but I saw it there once for something like $2/lb. for a large block.  Fresh parsley is under $1 for a bunch at Meijer or Kroger, and it keeps for quite a while in the fridge (put it in an unsealed zip-top bag along with a damp paper towel).  Don't bother with dried parsley; it's not worth it.

Garden Fresh Couscous Salad (original recipe found here)
Time:  30-40 minutes
Serves:  8-9 (this makes a big batch, and it's best to eat it within 2-3 days)

3 medium ears sweet corn, husks removed
1 cup chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked couscous
1 medium cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or bigger tomatoes, diced)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 T. minced fresh parsley
3 T. olive oil
3 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. dried oregano
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Wrap ears of corn in a single layer of plastic wrap; microwave on high for about 5 minutes.  Remove from microwave (wear oven mitts!) and slit plastic open; allow to cool.  (You can also boil the corn, but I find microwaving is the easiest and fastest cooking method.)

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 5-10 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, onion and parsley. Cut corn kernels from the cobs (if they are still too hot to handle, run cold water over them; pat dry). Add to cucumber mixture. Stir in couscous.

In a small bowl, whisk together oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. Pour over couscous mixture; toss to coat. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate until chilled.

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