Cooking with what you’ve got (Couscous and Balsamic Vegetables)
Sometimes you go to the cupboard and look to make something, and you’re left with an assortment of vegetables and dry food, and no idea what to make. This happens to us every now and again for one reason or another (maybe we went shopping all day, maybe we got caught up watching our latest television infatuation). Whatever the reason, when you’re left with some somewhat random, if delicious, vegetables, and have some couscous and condiments handy, you can still throw together something reasonably healthy and very tasty.
I give you, Couscous with Balsamic Vegetables.
Couscous; a zucchini; a capsicum; spring onions; an onion; some garlic; vegetable stock; balsamic vinegar; oregano; basil.
Then, you do this:
To make the couscous, boil as many cups of stock as you want of couscous (that is, one cup of stock to one cup of couscous). Once the water is boiled, add the couscous, and then a generous dollop of extra virgin olive oil, this helps stop the couscous from forming clumps. Put the lid on the saucepan, and turn off the heat. (You can absolutely use water instead of stock, but we think that stock just makes the couscous that much more flavoursome.) For two people, you shouldn’t need more than 1 cup.
Once that’s done, leave the couscous in the pot. I think part of this recipe is about preparation, so its great to have the vegetables sliced up before you start cooking (try to have the vegetables cut into even sized pieces). Also, it does not matter at all if you switch the vegetables for others. We’ve also used broccoli, artichokes, eggplant, perhaps some mushrooms. You could even be a little crazy, and try some roasted pumpkin or potatoes!
Put some oil in a pan, and caramelise the onions and garlic. Fry the other vegetables in whichever order makes the most sense (I usually do the zucchini first, then the capsicum). When they are nicely cooked, add some balsamic vinegar, and the herbs (to taste; I find about two tablespoons of vinegar and a teasppon of the herbs works well), then turn the heat down, and let it simmer a while. In the middle of the cooking process, it will look something like this:
Add the spring onions, and after giving it a bit of a stir, add the couscous. I find it helps to add about a third at a time – it’s easier to stir; but if your pan is big enough, it shouldn’t matter. Use a little of the spring onions as a garnish, if you like.
The whole thing only takes about half an hour to prepare and cook, so it’s a nice one to have in the back pocket if there’s not much going on in the cupboard, if you’re tired, and if the weather is hot, it makes a great cold snack for lunch.
Photos by PJD, with artistic guidance by CIA