Getting something to come out of the closet…

Did you ever look at things in your pantry and wonder, “what in the world was I thinking when I bought that?” I know that I have and that is what happened before this recipe was created. You see, there was a time when I was thoroughly enamored of the “South Beach Diet”. I decided to do that diet after gaining about 10 pounds eating from recipes that came out of Paula Dean’s cookbooks (she has gotten better, however, because I think her sons are making her). There I was kitchen cruising one Saturday looking for something different to have with grilled fare and ran across a box of couscous tucked way in the back behind some random cat treats. Thinking that cat treats really would not go with grilled anything, I decided on the couscous. I remembered couscous from my South Beach phase and also remembered that it was something the South Beach diet was in love with because of its being whole grain and such. The box was leftover because we rapidly found out that eating the South Beach way costs an extra couple hundred dollars a week, if you are doing it correctly and that is all I have to say about that.

Couscous on its own is pretty nondescript and has a sort of nutty taste to it. It is very easy to prepare and most of the times will only take about five minutes. I figured a good way to dress it up would be to add some roasted or grilled vegetables to it. I like this recipe warm or cold so the decision would be up to you depending on what you are having. If you are having burgers and such, cold is most likely the way to go. You can even prepare it a day ahead so the flavors REALLY get to know each other (a veritable vegetable orgy, if you will). I like it warm when I am serving chicken or roasted pork. I hope you enjoy this recipe.

Revved up Roasted Vegetable Couscous
(makes 4 to 5 servings)

1 – Red bell pepper
1 – Green bell pepper
2 – Sweet onion slices (kid of on the hefty side)
5 – Large Portobello mushroom slices
15 to 20 – Asparagus stalks
Kosher salt – to taste
Coarse ground black pepper – to taste
Rosemary – to taste
Basil – to taste
Garlic powder – to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 – Box of couscous (normally the box will have a bit more than a cup of stuff in it and a serving is ¼ cup dry)

There are a couple of ways you can go here with the vegetables. I normally do them inside on a cookie sheet but if you are feeling froggy and want to do them outside on the grill that is okay too.

Oven instructions:
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees (you can do 400 but sometimes the vegetables roast too fast) and take out two regular sized cookie sheets. Slice the peppers (I normally cut mine into 8 pieces to do the roasting) and place on a cookie sheet (or baking pan) with the onions and Portobello mushrooms. For the other cookie sheet, prepare the asparagus spears by taking one spear and gently bending it while holding the ends until it breaks. Where it breaks is the length you will cut the remaining spears to. Doing this gets rid of the hardened and bitter ends. (Think the curmudgeonly old man parts of the asparagus.) Place the spears in a single level on the cookie sheet. Over each set of vegetables drizzle (don’t drown) with olive oil and toss to make sure they are all coated (you going to sort of tan them), season with your desired amount of herbal goodness and place in the oven until done. If you are like my daughter, you will want to know what “done” looks like. So to that end, the peppers will soften and blacken around the edges, the mushrooms will become soft shrink and darken, the onions will become translucent and soft and the asparagus spears will shrink, become softer and blacken at the ends. After the vegetables are done, set aside to cool.

Grill instructions:
I have a perforated stainless steel cooking sheet that I use for vegetables on the grill. The difference between the oven and the grill is that I brush them with olive oil and season as I am grilling them but they will look the same when they are done. The grill I normally try for between 350 and 400 degrees and do all the vegetables at the same time and take them off as they get done.

Next, prepare the couscous per the package instructions and while that is happening medium chop the vegetables. When the couscous is done add vegetables and mix until all vegetables are evenly distributed.

If you want this can be served warm (you will most likely need to heat the vegetables up after chopping them while the couscous is cooking) or you can cool everything in the refrigerator for about a half hour and serve tossed with a couple splashes of white balsamic vinegar (or your favorite Italian oil and vinegar dressing).



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