One of the main reasons I decided to focus on recipes when I started the Cold Coffee Club blog was because whenever I made the family a winning dinner, I could never remember what I put in it, or how I made it, the next time I wanted to have it on the menu. I have never been one to follow recipes, always changing things to make it suit my own tastes, which is great at the time, but causes issues when I need to replicate. Having a dedicated recipe depositary like the Cold Coffee Club forces me to take note of what I am doing, how much of what I am putting in and how long I am cooking things for!
Documenting my ‘how-tos’ is not exactly a technical process. Before I go to make something that I think I would like to share on the blog I grab a piece of paper (or the back of an envelope!) and a pen, and as I cook I scribble down the ingredients I am putting in and what I am doing. My scrawl is always so untidy, the short hand is so ridiculously short I often have to stop and think what on earth I was talking about, and by the time the meal is ready to be served, my ‘recipe’ is splattered with food, or oil or water (or my tears if it hasn’t turned out right!!)
I absolutely love this rustic approach to recipe creation – it reminds me of my late grandmother’s cookbook, which my mum has a copy of. You can see the splatters of food, the coffee ring stains on the pages and the tattered dog ears, and it just brings the whole cooking process to life. Unfortunately in this technological age of blogs and electronic recipes you forego that character, but I can assure you it is alive and well in my kitchen, as well as in my home office where I keep all the scrawled versions of my recipes.
I made a version of this mediterranean couscous salad quite some time ago, and with the weather getting warmer now in Perth I thought it was a good time to start embracing salad for dinner, and to try this one again. For the reasons outlined above, I had no idea how I made it back then, or what ingredients I had used – so I set about making the closest replica of the original dish as I could.
The end product worked a treat. Though nothing like the original version of the dish I was trying to replicate 😄, tonight’s salad was delicious – bright and colourful with all the different vegetables and spotted with crunchy charred chorizo, creamy crumbled feta, a sprinkling of fresh basil and all tied together with a zingy whole grain mustard vinaigrette.
I was super proud of what I had produced until Evelyn took one look and said “I’m not eating that”. Ahhh, nothing like the unfiltered feedback of a nearly four year old to bring you down a peg. Fortunately she actually did eat it – albeit semi deconstructed as she chomped on the different ingredients individually. As long as its eaten I suppose – I’m chalking that up as a win!
Listed below are the ingredients I used tonight, but certainly in regards to the vegetables you could use what you have in the fridge.
For the salad
1 zucchini, diced into large chunks
1 red capsicum, diced into large chunks
1 green capsicum, diced into large chunks
6 asparagus spears, trimmed
1/2 red onion, cut into wedges
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 x chorizo, cut into slices, than halved
100 grams feta cheese
250g pearl couscous
1 tbsp olive oil
small bunch of fresh basil, sliced
1/2 lemon to serve
salt and pepper to taste
For the dressing
1 clove garlic, diced
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Make the dressing first as you need it at different stages of the cooking process. To make the dressing, simply put all the ingredients into a small jug or bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
Heat a griddle pan (or fry pan) on medium high heat. I used a griddle pan tonight as you get those gorgeous charred smokey lines (and also I was heading out and didn’t have to wash the darn thing!!) but a normal frypan will also do the trick.
Add chorizo and cook until the fat renders and the chorizo gets crispy and a little bit charred. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess fat. Set aside.
Put the washed and trimmed asparagus spears into the pan and cook, turning for 3-5 minutes until they are tender. I added a small drizzle of oil over the top and some cracked pepper while they were cooking. Once they are tender, take out of the pan and cut into smaller pieces – I cut each spear into quarters. Set aside.
Drizzle 3-4 tablespoons of the dressing over the diced zucchini, capsicum, red onion and cherry tomatoes before transferring all (except the cherry tomatoes) to the griddle pan. You won’t have to add any oil to the pan before you do this, as there is enough oil in the dressing. Cook, tossing regularly for approximately 5 minutes until vegetables are just tender.
Add the cherry tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of dried oregano and cook a further 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes are just tender. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Return the asparagus to the pan and drizzle another 2 tablespoons of the dressing over the vegetables. Turn off the stove and the veggies are ready to be combined with the couscous.
To cook the pearl couscous:
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan and sauté the couscous for a minute or two until it is lightly toasted. Then add 2 cups of boiling water, add salt to the water, bring to the boil, then cover, turn the heat right down and let simmer for 8-10 minutes until the water has absorbed and the couscous is tender. Once cooked, toss a couple of tablespoons of the dressing through the couscous until it is lightly coated.
To assemble the salad:
There is quite a lot of ingredients so I found it too hard to try and combine everything in a bowl – it is easier to assemble directly on your serving dish.
Transfer all the couscous onto your serving dish, then place the veggies on top, reserving a few for final presentation. Toss the ingredients with tongs to combine.
Add the chorizo to the top and toss through.
Add the remaining ‘presentation veggies’ to the top of your salad to make it colourful and even.
Crumble the feta over the salad and then sprinkle the sliced fresh basil over the top.
Dress the salad with the remainder of the dressing and it is ready to serve.
I served this salad up for the family into bowls and each serve got a squeeze of fresh lemon and a final sprinkle of basil. I also added some cracked black pepper for Rob and I.
This salad is best served at room temperature. ENJOY!! 💜