New Years was a great time, and an exercise in decadence. Shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, vodka on the rocks, crab dip, homemade pizza, deviled eggs, more vodka, artichoke dip, baby hotdogs wrapped in pastry, a shot of vodka… And repeat. It was a lot of fun, and because I slept at my cousin’s place, we proceeded to have crab dip and artichoke dip for breakfast, cold. And, yes, I’m a little embarrassed about this; it was quite a way to ring in 2010. After all that rich food, on New Year’s Day, I was craving something simple and wholesome. I wanted vegetables, lean protein, and starch in appropriate proportions; something cooked in a limited amount of mono-unsaturated fat, but not without flavor. For some inexplicable reason, I was craving couscous. I know, this is not exactly a food that seems crave-worthy, but I had couscous on the brain, and I could not be deterred. After a brisk walk to Whole Foods for chicken, and Sunflower Market for vegetables, my appetite was in full effect, and I whipped up the following concoction.
Chicken and Vegetables over Lemon-Herb Couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup thinly sliced onion
¼ cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 far garlic clove, minced
1 medium broccoli crown, chopped into florets
½ pound chicken breast, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Zest from half of a lemon, zested (optional)
¾ cup couscous
1 cup reduced sodium chicken stock
Juice from half of a lemon
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
· Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large pan. Pre-heat over medium-high heat until hot.
· Add onion and bell pepper to pan, give a quick stir, and then add chicken in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper and then allow chicken to cook for a couple of minutes undisturbed (to allow the chicken to brown).
· Add garlic and stir. Continue cooking until chicken is cooked through.
· Meanwhile, steam the broccoli. I use the following method: place broccoli in a microwave safe bowl, and cover with vented wax paper or plastic wrap. Microwave for 2 ½ to 3 minutes, and voila! Perfectly steamed broccoli awaits.
· Put one cup of chicken stock on the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and add couscous. Stir, cover, and allow to sit for five minutes.
· When chicken is just cooked through, add steamed broccoli and lemon zest (if using). Stir to combine.
· When couscous is done, fluff with a fork and stir in lemon juice and parsley.
· Serve chicken and vegetables over couscous and enjoy.
Comments: This was just what the doctor ordered: a healthful and flavorful meal. This quantity could feed two hungry people. I think the secret to the high flavor quotient is cooking the vegetable and the chicken together. The garlic doesn’t hurt either. This was pretty garlicky, but I figured that since I already smelled like vodka, I might as well add a little garlic to the mix. The lemon zest is totally optional, but I just couldn’t help myself. It makes everything better. Pretty soon, someone is going to have to drag me to a Lemon Zest Anonymous meeting, but until then, I will zest on. While we are on the subject of my addictions, I may or may not have topped everything off some freshly grated Tillamook medium cheddar I found on a ridiculous sale. When you find high quality cheese at bargain prices, you have a moral obligation to buy said cheese. And once that cheese sets up camp in your refrigerator, you must uphold that obligation by using the wonderful cheese when possible. You wouldn’t want me to let those golden strands go bad, would you? I didn’t think so.