Roasted cauliflower and couscous with tomatoes, olive oil, lemon and garlic
Couscous is a useful grain, lending itself as a base to many vegetables and legumes or good on its own with tomatoes, herbs and lemony-garlicy dressing. Couscous has mediterranean origin, made from semolina, a product of cracked durum wheat. The type available here is mostly the instant couscous, grains that have been previously steamed and dried. You add the couscous to boiling water to which a little oil and salt have been added, then remove from the heat, cover, and let the grains soak up the liquid, expand and puff up. It could not be simpler.
In Mediterranean cuisine it is used as a base for cooked meat and vegetables, in soups, as a “filler” for parsley salad (tabouli or tabouleh) and even in desserts with butter, sugar and cinnamon. I sometimes make it this way as a breakfast cereal, for a change form my standard oatmeal. There is another product called Israeli couscous, small pasta-like pearls that cook like pasta and have pasta texture when cooked. It’s not the same product as the couscous I am using in this recipe. I use Israeli couscous often, here is one example. The traditional cooking method for couscous in the north African cultures where it originated is to steam it over cooking meat or vegetables. The couscous then absorb the aromas and flavours of whatever is cooking beneath it.
There are so many ways to make a vegetarian couscous dish, with vegetables, dried fruits, pomegranates herbs and more. This time I paired it with roasted cauliflower, tomatoes and feta cheese. I like it lemony, if you prefer it less lemony either use less lemon or replace the lemon juice with vinegar. Just taste it as you go to make sure you do not over or under flavour it.
One of the joys of this summer for me has been the herb garden I was able to cultivate (very easily) . So I added a few herbs into the dish and garnished it with the same herbs. If you have herbs go ahead and use them, if not, use parsley or chives, usually readily available.
This recipe serves about 4.
Roasting the cauliflower:
1 small or medium cauliflower
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
A pinch of dried hot pepper flakes
1 large garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 cup water
Green or black olives, halved
Crumbled feta cheese
Cut cauliflower into florets, not too large, not too small and place in a bowl.
Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat all the florets with some of the oil. Add more oil if needed. You don’t want to soak the florets, only glaze them with some of the oil.
Squeeze the lemon over the cauliflower and mix again.
Sprinkle with salt, add the hot pepper flakes.
Spread cauliflower on a foil lined baking sheet, scatter the sliced garlic over and pour the water into the dish.
Place in a preheated 400℉ oven and roast, uncovered until cauliflower is golden in spots and crisp tender. Watch it so it doesn’t burn. Adding the water helps prevent the cauliflower from browning too fast and helps prevent the garlic from burning. It creates steam that also assists in cooking the cauliflower. If you want more of a golden roasted version omit the water.
When the cauliflower is done remove, drizzle with some of the dressing (see below), and let rest until needed.
Cooking the couscous:
1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tomato, seeds squeezed out, diced
1/4 cup mixed herbs (thyme,. oregano, parsley or chives), keep extra for garnish
Bring the water, oil and salt to a boil.
Add the couscous and stir.
Remove from heat, cover and let stand until liquids are absorbed.
Fluff couscous up with a fork, add the tomato and half the herbs, drizzle half the the dressing over.
4 tablesopoons olive oil
3 tablespoon lemon juice
1 garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Combine dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to blend.
Assembling the dish:
Spoon couscous on large or individual serving plates.
Top with cauliflower and scatter herbs over.
Drizzle more dressing over the cauliflower if necessary.
Crumble feta cheese over and garnish with remaining parsley, chives or herbs.
Serve warm or at room temperature.