Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Salad with Pearl Couscous

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Salad with Pearl Couscous Salad

I was going to make soup. But the weather has been a little hot lately, with triple digit temperatures reminiscent of summer, not October. My plan was to make a harvest chicken soup, taking advantage of the peppers and tomatoes that are still going strong in our California garden. Instead, and because the thought of a simmering pot of hot soup in the kitchen is unbearable, I re-configured the ingredients, threading them on skewers and cooking them on the grill. A pearl couscous salad was the perfect accompaniment, served at room temperature with flecks of chiles and fresh herbs from the garden.

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Salad with Pearl Couscous
Serves 4

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Sriracha or hot sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large chicken breasts, without skin, 6 to 8 ounces each, cut in 1-inch pieces

Pre-soaked bamboo skewers
2 large sweet red and/or yellow peppers, stemmed, seeded, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 large chipotle pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 large red onion, cut in 1 inch pieces

Pearl Couscous Salad
Extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon halves
Fresh Italian parsley sprigs

Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a small bowl. Place chicken in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag. Pour marinade over chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate 3 to 4 hours (or overnight), turning once or twice.
Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Thread chicken on skewers alternating with peppers and onions. Grill over direct medium heat, turning once, until browned and chicken is cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a platter and slide chicken and vegetables off of skewers. To serve, spoon Pearl Couscous salad onto serving plates. Top with chicken and vegetables. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little fresh squeezed lemon juice. Garnish with fresh parsley.

Pearl Couscous Salad

Pearl Couscous Salad

If you haven’t met pearl couscous yet, then it’s high time you did. Despite its name, pearl couscous differs from the finely-grained North African semolina couscous, typically served with tagines. Pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous, is made of baked wheat instead of semolina, and its granules are much larger in size, similar to fregola sarda. It retains it’s shape while cooking, and, before simmering in liquid to soften, it should be sauteed in olive oil which imparts a lovely golden hue and toasted flavor. It’s delicious simply tossed with olive oil and lemon, or as a component of a chopped salad. Serve it as an accompaniment to grilled meats and fish, or dress it up with chopped vegetables and herbs from the garden and sprinkle with feta for a vegetarian option.  Continue reading Pearl Couscous Salad

Pearl Couscous Salad

What is Pearl Couscous?  Pearl Couscous is not the traditional couscous associated with North African cuisine.  North African Couscous is a Berber preparation that consists of very small (1 mm) granules of semolina wheat which are coated in wheat flour.  Pearl Couscous, also known as Israeli Couscous (or ptitim) is made of baked wheat rather than semolina, and is similar to pasta. Its granules are much larger in size and maintain their individual texture and firmness without sticking, which makes it a great candidate for salads and a substitute for orzo and rice. Pearl couscous may be toasted before simmering in liquid, which will impart a lovely golden hue and flavor that will hold up against spices and herbs.

This salad is delicious as is or as an accompaniment to grilled meat, chicken or fish. It’s spicy, crunchy and fresh.  Tiny pearl couscous are tumbled with a variety of sweet and hot peppers, and freshened with crisp parsley, mint and cilantro leaves.  Call it a salad, side dish or light meal, Pearl Couscous Salad is addictively good.  If you prefer a vegetarian option, substitute the chicken stock with water and crumble feta cheese over the salad before serving.  Feel free to add other ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, grated carrot or lightly sauteed zucchini or broccoli. There is no single way to prepare this dish allowing you to be creative and resourceful with your refrigerator ingredients.

Pearl Couscous Salad

Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups giant pearl couscous (Israeli couscous)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2 green onions, ends trimmed, white and green parts finely sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
1 poblano pepper, seeded, diced
1 serrano pepper, seeded, minced
1 garlic cloved, minced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in skillet.  Add couscous and cook, stirring, until couscous is golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender but firm, 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer couscous to a large bowl, fluffing with a fork. Stir in one tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne.  Set aside to cool.  When cool, add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Note: If you are preparing the salad in advance, do not add the parsley, mint or cilantro until serving to prevent wilting.