Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Italian Chicken Couscous

I was going to call this Italian Couscous "Where the Grease Meets the Middle East," but I shouldn't advocate negative stereotypes of my own ethnicity. Not when "the Sopranos" just stopped doing that for me.

I'm not trying to be cute, but Chris went crazy for this couscous! (Okay, I'm being a little cute). But really, I always know how much he liked something when later on he says, "Remember that chicken and couscous thing? That was really good." If you know him, you know that's a rave review. I need to go to the store and get the ingredients to make this again soon... And if you know me, you know that for me not to be bored, and to contemplate a repeat means that it was pretty darned good.

I'm using a lot of different grains and pastas lately to support our usual proteins and vegetables. It took me awhile not to "fear the couscous." There really is no reason to, as it is a lot like the pastina I grew up eating. It is really just tiny pasta, and you can use it hot or cold the same way. Even better is that the instant stuff cooks up super fast, like in a minute and a half.

For this dish, I cooked up the couscous, chopped up some leftover grilled chicken, and some sun-dried tomatoes. Joe Caputo's has real, fresh sun-dried tomatoes that don't at all resemble the leather/jerky variety that I sometimes avoid... and they smell great. I had also purchased some fresh mozzarella there, and the round shapes were so small that I didn't have to chop them up, just drained and added them. I think they were called perlini, but I may just be inventing an Italian word there, the way my grandfather began calling the subway "il soob-a-way." It sounds good though, right?

Anyway, I also added chopped scallions, chopped garlic, some toasted pignoli (pine nuts browned quickly in another pan), and some finely chopped celery for crunch. Then I drizzled it with just enough olive oil to coat, and a little shake of white wine (or you could use a little vinegar) for acidity. You could use as much of each as you want, generally though, the oil to acid ratio should be 2:1. Then, you know, salt and pepper.

I served this at room temperature or a little warm, and we just ate the leftovers cold. It was really summery, but a nicely filling lunch, too. Would have been great even without the chicken, too -- as a vegetarian entrée or as a side to bring to a party.

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