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Posts Tagged ‘mediterranean’

I love everything about summer dinners. Eating outdoors, using herbs from the garden, farmer’s market veggies and grilling. I enjoy entertaining during the summer. Everything is simple but fresh and very relaxed. We had friends over for dinner last weekend and I was able to spend the evening chatting rather than rushing around in the kitchen. The appetizer and side dish were made a head of time and the main and vegetable were done on the grill. It doesn’t get better than that!

While looking for side dishes that could be prepared ahead of time, I came across this Mediterranean Lentil and Couscous Salad. First, I have a serious fondness for anything that involves Mediterranean flavors and liked that that base of the salad was lentils and couscous. The inclusion of tomatoes, feta, arugula and fresh herbs really made this stand out. Second, I have an appreciation for recipes from Gourmet and usually find them to be winners.

I let the salad sit overnight to really let the flavors develop. It was a hit with our guests and the perfect side for a summer cookout. I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next few days!

Mediterranean Lentil and Couscous Salad
(Recipe source Gourmet magazine)

Ingredients:

1 cup French green or brown lentils
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup couscous (I used whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced and mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 bunch arugula, stems discarded and leaves washed well, spun dry and chopped
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup fresh basil, julienned

Directions:

Place lentils in a small saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender but not falling apart. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Stir in one tablespoon vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Cool lentils completely.

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil and add couscous and salt. Remove from heat and let couscous stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon oil and cool completely.

In a small bowl, whisk together garlic paste, remaining 2 tablespoons vinegar, remaining 3 tablespoons oil and salt and pepper to taste. Stir lentils and dressing into couscous. Chill salad, covered, at least 3 hours and up to 24.

Just before serving, stir in remaining ingredients, top with basil and season with salt and pepper. At this time I also added another drizzle of olive oil and a splash of vinegar but that’s totally optional.

Yield: 8 servings

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68 Days of Gourmet: Day 65

I haven’t had much luck with making pasta salad in the past. It always seemed to be lacking in flavor and pretty mediocre. We decided to grill kebabs last week and enjoy our first dinner out on our patio. I thought pasta salad sounded like the perfect side item.

I read through several recipes from Gourmet on Epicurious and this recipe for Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Zucchini and Olives sounded like a winner. We love Mediterranean flavors and I didn’t see how this could be boring with zucchini, olives, onions, tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil and feta.

I made a few modifications to the recipe. First, I made the pasta salad ahead of time (wanted to go to a late yoga class!) so I skipped grilling the zucchini in favor of a quick saute. Second, I just do not love the flavor of raw onions and garlic so I gave those a quick saute too (and subbed Vidalia’s for red onions because they were on hand).

The verdict? Awesome! The only complaint Brandon had was with the whole wheat pasta but that’s typical. He’s not a lover of the added chewiness. If you struggle with that too you may want to substitute white pasta for the wheat but keep in mind the added health benefits of using whole wheat pasta :)

I loved the flavors of this pasta salad and enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next couple days. I cut the recipe in half and it still made a ton. This would be great for entertaining or to make for lunches for the week. I will most definitely be making this recipe again soon.

One Year Ago: Stuffed Chicken with Goat Cheese, Sundried Tomatoes and Basil

Whole-Wheat Pasta Salad with Zucchini and Olives
(Recipe source Gourmet, July 1994)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing  zucchini
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, cut diagonally into 1/3-inch-thick slices
1 pound whole-wheat penne or other tubular pasta
2/3 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, coarsely chopped
6 ounces ricotta salata or feta cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups whole small or torn large fresh basil leaves

In a large bowl gently stir together tomatoes, onion, garlic paste, vinegar and olive oil. Set aside.

Brush one side of zucchini slices lightly with additional oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a well-seasoned ridged grill pan over moderate heat until hot and grill zucchini, oiled sides down, in batches, brushing tops with more oil before turning, 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until just tender but not soft. Transfer to a small bowl.

In a pot of salted boiling water cook pasta until just tender (following package directions) and drain. Add hot pasta to tomato mixture and toss to combine. Cool pasta slightly and stir in zucchini, olives, cheese, basil and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 8 servings

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