Friday, February 25, 2011

Eating on the Cheap: Couscous.

We love mediterranean food in this house. We go to our favorite place, Pita Jungle, as regularly as we can, but the truth is we can drop a pretty penny there between dinners for each of us, a glass of wine for the over-21s, and an appetizer. Pita Jungle is, quite literally, the only restaurant we eat at where we always order an appetizer. And it's amazing: garlic dip garnished with tomato and cucumber slices, served with warm pita bread. In fact, even though the garlic in this dip is often so strong it makes your tongue tingle a bit, our kids devour it by the spoonful.

So I've been eager to attempt some mediterranean food of our own, but other than the grilled chicken-stuffed pitas we have for lunch sometimes, I hadn't ventured far into that territory.

But, last week we made a commitment to eating at home every meal for 7 days. We hit the grocery store, where Darrick and I each picked up ingredients for 3 meals a piece, figuring we'd have 1 night of leftovers and any other leftover food could be packed for lunch.

Last night I got home first, so I opened the fridge and spotted my fresh basil, which I'd selected with the plan of making a really simple and inexpensive pasta dish I love. But then my plans veered onto another track when my search for pasta in the pantry ('s waaaay past time to take out the recycleables, honey!) led me straight to a box of couscous I had purchased recently but not yet used. I've had couscous before at restaurants, but making it at home was going to be a new adventure, and instantly visions of pasta went arrivederci and I began to formulate a meal in my head.

I didn't follow a recipe, really, though I was pleased to realize when I looked on the couscous box for its instructions that a recipe very similar to what I was making was posted there.


boneless, skinless chicken breast
olive oil
fresh garlic
fresh basil

First I trimmed the fat and ickiness from the chicken and cut it into small pieces. I threw those into a large skillet with some olive oil, some finely chopped garlic, and a few large basil leaves I'd broken into small pieces. I cooked it all over medium heat until the chicken was cooked all the way through. Then I added just over a cup of water and the flavor packet (parmesan) from the couscous package and brought it to a rolling boil for a few minutes.

While the chicken was cooking, I sliced up some tomatoes, broke the ends off some green beans and put them on the stove, and crushed up some more basil leaves.

Once a rolling boil had been achieved for a few minutes, I added in the cous cous and mixed until all the couscous was wet and the moisture in the pan was almost gone. Then I covered it and removed it from the heat for just over 5 minutes. Sprinkled some feta on top and covered again. While that was all coaking and settling, I lightly sprayed a pita with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and sprinkled it with garlic salt, and let that bake at 425 for about 5 minutes. I took it out when it was browned on the edges but not crispy.

When all was said and done, our plates looked like this:

And our bellies were SO happy. This was some seriously good dinner, and the leftover chicken and couscous was taken to work today and turned into lettuce wraps, which was also amazing.


Crystal said...

I have a really good couscous salad recipe, if you ever want it. It's a surprisingly easy food, yes?

Muffin Cake said...

Yes, please Crystal!!

Suzie @ cupcake monkey said...

This looks and sounds so good!! I love meals that just get thrown together and turn out fabulous!!

...and feta makes everything better!! :)


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