18 February 2013
Chickpea tomato couscous
Well, my camera has suddenly started writing invisible junk data to its memory card. It still takes pictures, but it won't store them. So I'm pretty happy that I've had a backlog of pictures hanging out waiting to be edited, aren't you?
It was a good run, ridiculous little Canon point-and-shoot. Hey, over five years' worth of service in the kitchen is pretty great, considering all the sauce and steam and oil in the mix, right? I'm thinking I will take a small step up instead of leaping into the land of complex equipment I don't really know how to use. If any of you guys have recommendations for mid-range cameras that work well for food photography, let me know!
Instant couscous is one of my favorite options for a super-fast meal. It costs just about nothing from the bulk bins. It's not perishable, so you can keep a container in your desk at work and whip it out whenever you have a food emergency. It's surprisingly filling, and can be a meal in itself if necessary. It's exceptionally easy to make--all you really need is boiling water and a little salt and pepper. And, of course, it makes a perfect backdrop for nearly any mix of vegetables, beans, and sauce. This time I had chickpeas, tomato sauce, and some carrot and red pepper. Voila! Lunch.
Chickpea tomato couscous
red bell pepper
salt, pepper, red pepper flake, marjoram, oregano
parsley and green onion to garnish
Start out by making your couscous. Simply put as much couscous as you want to eat into a bowl, keeping in mind that it will expand by about half when cooked. Boil some water in your teapot and pour it over the couscous to cover by a finger's width. Add some salt, pepper, and a little drizzle of olive oil, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel, and set it aside. It will steam while you cook all the vegetables.
Warm a glug of olive oil in a saute pan. Add as much minced garlic as you like. I like plenty, so I used three or four cloves for my lone lunch serving. Let the garlic soften over medium heat while you scrub and grate a carrot and slice up a chunk of bell pepper.
Add the carrot, bell pepper, and a bit of salt, and cook your vegetables together, stirring occasionally, for about five minutes. When the vegetables are tender, add your chickpeas and season with pepper, red pepper flake, marjoram, and oregano. I used half a can of chickpeas, since I was only feeding myself, but you can easily up the amounts if needed. Stir everything together and cook for another three or four minutes. When the pan gets dry, deglaze with dry vermouth or some water.
Add your tomato sauce to the pan, stir, and bring to a simmer. Give everything a few minutes to cook before you taste and adjust the seasonings. Chickpeas can take a lot of flavor, so be prepared to add a bit more of everything. Continue to cook until the sauce has reduced to your desired thickness.
By this time your couscous should be finished steaming. Uncover the bowl and fluff with a fork. Top your couscous with a big spoonful of chickpeas and tomato. Garnish with chopped parsley and green onion.
Now eat it!
Since I used oregano and marjoram as my main herbs, this turned out slightly Italianate. The red pepper, carrot, and tomato made the overall profile a bit sweet, while the red pepper flake punched everything up with spice. It would be really easy to switch out the herbs and turn this into a spicy tomato curry, to mix up the vegetables with some celery or mushrooms, or to exchange the chickpeas for white beans and puree into fagioli-type sauce. It's totally up to you. I think that's my favorite thing about knowing how to cook--the ability to improvise lets you use your available ingredients to cater precisely to your tastes. It's so satisfying.
What's your favorite melange to serve over a bowl of delicious grains?