Friday, May 23, 2008



The day has dawned, the sun is blindingly golden upon the water, and there is the promise (if not yet the actual fact) of May warmth in the air. "Basaa" is gone, the world is wonderful, and I'm ready to go out and greet it. Here in the States, this is a special Friday, the start of the summer. Be safe and have fun this holiday weekend.

This is a recipe I collected from the Washington Post several years ago. It's a delicious and easy side, perfect for the barbecue you're planning for the weekend. I think it's clever because it combines two cultural influences, Middle-Eastern and French, which in actual life have deep and continuing ties. I have no idea from where the Post got the recipe, but I like to think it's the invention of some enterprising French cook stationed in one of the country's North African colonies, homesick for ratatouille but enjoying the odd local pasta, couscous.

Notes: To add a little extra interest, I use the multi-colored couscous made from different vegetable-flavored pastas. If you don't have that in your parts, just use the plain. But do use chicken stock for the couscous if you are not a vegetarian. It adds a depth if flavor that plain water cannot.

1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1- inch cubes
1 pound zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into ¾-inch squares
2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups uncooked couscous
Chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Lightly coat one large rimmed baking sheet (or two medium sheets) with nonstick spray oil. (Alternatively, this is a perfect use for the releasable aluminum foil now available. If you have that, line the baking sheets with it, dull side up. The sheets will stay clean, and the veggies won't stick.)

In a large bowl, combine the egg­plant, zucchini, bell pepper, onions and tomatoes. Add 1/3 cup of the oil and salt and pepper to taste and toss the vegetables to coat evenly. Trans­fer to the prepared baking sheet, keeping the vegetables in one layer. Roast until tender and just begin­ning to brown, ab out an hour, stirring every 15 minutes and turn­ing the pan(s) midway through to en­sure even cooking. Transfer roasted vegetables to a large serving bowl and set aside.

Prepare the couscous according to package directions, using chicken stock instead of water. Add the cooked couscous and the remain­ing 2 tablespoons oil to the roasted vegetatbles and stir to combine. Ad­just the seasoning to taste. Serve


Nan said...

Looks really yummy. I wonder how it would be with quinoa instead of couscous. We tend to go with quinoa (in the rice maker)for a little more protein. Looks like one to give a whirl! Have a great holiday weekend, Ralph. Glad the Baasa is gone!

Kat said...

Have a great weekend.

I'm having the barbecue on Sunday with baby back ribs the honored guest. Monday will be hometown parade time.

Ralph said...

Nan, this woud be a great use for quinoa--good idea! If you do try it and think of it, let me know how it comes out. Can't imagine it would be bad!

Ralph said...

I know you've got the deck all spiffed up, Kat! I was planning on baby baack ribs, too, but the store doidn't have any. Tonight it'll be pulled pork, and I'm playing it by ear the rest of the nights. I'm making "red, white, and blue pie" in honor of the holiday--the fresh blueberry pie recipe but made with half blueberries and half raspberries. Yum!

Anonymous said...

Sounds delicious! I still have the winning recipe printed in the WaPo back in 1973 for the Redskins chili cookoff, held at their opening game with tail gaters at RFK. My kids ask me every Christmas to make a batch. It's the only chili recipe I've found that uses sirloin but might be why everyone loves it. God I miss those old days.

Ralph said...

Z&M, even their food section was better back in those days. I could always count on finding at least one no-nonsense recipe worth trying every Wednesday, Nowadays they've gone trendy, chasing the young reader....

Kat said...

I just spent the morning hanging my candle holders on all the branches, washing down the deck and rail and filling the feeders. I hauled the table out of the cellar and cleaned the grill. Bring on the company!