Weekly Winner: Simple, Sumptuous Sumac-laden Supper

Couscous ChickenThis was a fascinating dinner I made last night.  On the one hand, it’s a super easy one-pot meal. On the other hand, it was uniquely complex and exotic-tasting with just a few ingredients.

Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas was a perfect cool evening, post-holiday meal — warm and comforting, yet healthy and nourishing.  The foreign feel of this dish comes from a rather large amount of sumac which is both cooked in the broth and added at the end for a final flourish.  Sumac has a slight citrusy taste and also a mild numbing effect on the tongue without adding any heat.  Just tasty goodness in a bowl here.

The recipe comes from Milk Street and because it comes together so quickly and is made up of items I almost always have on hand, I think I’ll be making this a bunch this winter.

Toasted Pearl Couscous with Chicken and Chickpeas

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 cup pearl couscous

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 Tbsp tomato paste

3 tsp ground sumac, divided

1 cinnamon stick

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and halved

2 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on a diagonal

15-1/2 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 tsp grated lemon zet, plus 1-1/2 Tbsp lemon juice

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh mint, chopped.

Procedure:

  1. In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering.  Add couscous and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl.
  2. In the same pot over medium-high, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil until shimmering.  Add the onion, 2 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are well-browned, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, 2 teaspoons of sumac and the cinnamon, then cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the chicken, carrots, 3 cups water and the couscous.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until the chicken is opaque when cut into and the couscous is tender but not mushy, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chickpeas and the lemon zest and juice, then remove and discord the cinnamon stick.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Stir in half of the mint and transfer to a serving bowl, then sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sumac and the remaining mint.

Weekly Winner:  Just a Dang Good Salad that Satisfies

I guess I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that not all blog titles can be alliteratively clever.  Try as I might I could not come up with one for this salad.  But this salad does not need any gimmicks or clever nicknames.  Its fabulous all on its own.  It is pretty, it tastes good and it is surprisingly filling!  This is not the type of salad that you have for lunch and then an hour later feel like you need a snack — this one stays with you.  And the leftovers keep for a few days due to the hearty arugula and the relatively small amount of tangy, lemony dressing.   It’s also a salad that moves well into fall — thanks to the roasted cauliflower, it doesn’t feel too “summery” as the days start to (thankfully) cool off a bit.

I’m always amazed by people who can create these types of salad recipes.  Every component in the salad is vital and the dish would not be as good if you were to take out even one of the ingredients.  There’s really not much more to say about this dish except make it…soon.

I got the recipe from Fine Cooking.  Seriously, don’t change a thing!

Roasted Cauliflower and Arugula Salad with Sumac Dressing

Serves 4 as main course

Ingredients:

1 large head cauliflower (about 2-1/4 lb) trimmed and cut into 1-inch florets

5 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp ground cumin

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 small clove garlic, minced

2 tsp sumac

1 14.5 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

5 oz (5 cups) baby arugula

3 oz crumbled feta (1/2 cup)

1/3 cup dried currants

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Procedure:

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 450°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Toss the cauliflower with 2 Tbs. of the oil, the cumin, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper on the baking sheet and spread in an even layer. Roast until browned on the edges, stirring once halfway through cooking, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice, garlic, sumac, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Slowly whisk in the remaining 3 Tbs. oil. Add the cauliflower, chickpeas, arugula, feta, currants, and pine nuts and toss to combine.