Thursday, May 8, 2014

Cheaters Handbook: Roasted Asparagus & Blistered Cherry Tomato Couscous

Cheater, cheater, couscous eater! Here's an easy little cheat that comes in handy in the midst of those manic, weeknight rushes to get a well balanced meal on the table. Sometimes it can be a challenge to prepare a well rounded meal complete with a protein, a good serving of vegetables, and a carb when you're rushing home from work and the only thing on your mind is "I AM HANGRY!" The trick is to try and prepare yourself in advance. It's a great idea to take a bit of time out of your Sunday evening to prepare a healthy and flavourful side that will carry you through to mid-week, but let's face it, as simple as that sounds, sometimes planning ahead just isn't a reality. For those times when your hunger and lack of time forces you to think on your feet and come up with something ASAP before your hangry temper gets the best of you, here is a little trick to make a satisfying, tasty, and healthy side dish that provides you with both your serving of vegetables and carbs all in one! 

Couscous is insanely simple and fast to prepare when armed with a cheat. When time doesn't allow me to stir up a dressing, sauce, or flavouring of my own to season my couscous with, I like to go to the convenience section of my fridge which features an array of salad dressings for moments just like this. A few tablespoons of salad dressing can add a big hit of flavour to your couscous or even quinoa and takes all of 2 seconds! When matching your salad dressing to your couscous or quinoa dish, think of complimenting flavours. What vegetables are you putting into your couscous? What dressing will compliment those flavours as opposed to overpower them? Putting a bit of thought into the dish doesn't require much time, and will make a world of a difference in the final dish. 

Tip: Keep in mind that as your couscous sits, some flavour will dissipate, so make sure to over season just a touch so your leftovers will still have all those big bright flavours. 

olive oil for cooking
1 cup cherry tomatoes
a handful of asparagus
4-5 tbsp Italian, Greek or other salad dressing of your choice
zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and fresh ground pepper
about 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped fine
1 cup couscous
1 cup vegetable broth (may substitute with chicken broth)

  1. In a small saucepan bring the vegetable broth to a boil. Place the couscous in a tupperware container large enough to fit both the couscous and water. When the broth comes to a boil add to the couscous-filled tupperware container, stir, and close tightly with a lid. Let sit for 5-minutes, fluff with a fork and set aside.
  2. In a small skillet set to medium heat, warm about 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until blistered. Don't worry if some skins start to burst.
  3. Set a grill-pan on the stove at medium heat, drizzle with olive oil and lay out the asparagus in one layer. Season generously with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cook until tender but still has a bit of a bite. Remove from pan and set aside. When asparagus is cool enough to handle, cut into 1/2-inch pieces. 
  4. Stir 4 tbsp salad dressing into the couscous along with the cherry tomatoes, asparagus, lemon juice and zest, and basil. Taste and season with salt and pepper and additional salad dressing, if needed. Taste again and season one more time, if needed. Can stay in fridge for 1-week. 
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