For more tips on great portable dishes, check out our guide to Becoming a Potluck All-Star!
We’ve seen quite a few planes, trains, and automobiles lately, with our book “tour” and all. These excursions have brought back to mind the need for super portable dishes–the kind we brown bag for lunch in the Bolt Bus cabin, or, better yet, bring to an actual patch of green when we picnic with friends. So I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite summer picnic go-to’s: couscous salad.
I’m a bit obsessed with roasted eggplant, and the technique in this dish I stole from these Roasted Eggplant and White Bean Sandwiches (another picnic favorite). The Israeli couscous wasn’t borrowed from anywhere, because we have yet to cook with it on this site! (We do have plain old couscous in abundance; check it out in this Couscous with Pears and Blue Cheese.) Though it doesn’t make an appearance that often in my pantry, Israeli couscous is the perfect vehicle for summer salads. It’s indulgent, carb-y, and satisfying, still a far cry from full-fledged pasta salad, but close enough to my other favorite salad carb, orzo. Pack this dish for your next picnic, and hopefully it will be more scenic than our last one, on a 747 bound for Los Angeles.
From my kitchen, albeit small, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Roasted Eggplant and Israeli Couscous Salad
Makes 4 side servings
1 large eggplant, quartered and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 large red onion, quartered and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon cumin
1 lemon, juiced
zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup Israeli couscous
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Preheat the oven to 450°F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggplant, onion, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the cumin. Toss until fully coated, and then turn out onto a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Shake the pan to make sure the vegetables lie flat and have the maximum possible surface area exposed.
Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. With a spatula, redistribute the vegetables so they brown on the opposite side, and return to the oven for another 10-20 minutes, until the vegetables are dark brown and caramelized.
In the meantime, whisk the remaining olive oil and salt, and the lemon juice, zest, and garlic in a medium mixing bowl.
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the couscous until just tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, and add to the bowl (with the dressing). Toss together with the roasted eggplant and cilantro. Serve as a bed for these lamb chops, or a nice piece of grilled fish.
NOTE: omit the cilantro, and the salad can keep for up to 3 days in the fridge. Simply add in the herbs before serving.