Upon leaving church this morning, I was placed in the mood for something warm and comforting yet light and healthy (as usual) for lunch. It had started to rain pretty heavily and I needed some food that would give me a heaping dose of warm-fuzzies. I considered what was available for me to work with at home and remembered the lonely eggplant that I recently purchased, among other things. Wanting to include it in my lunch plans, I quickly came up with an idea for warm couscous salad that would lead my purple friend to fulfill its destiny of satisfying me in a delicious meal.
Roasted Eggplant & Tomato Couscous Salad
Makes about 4-5 cups
*the amount of vegetables looks like a lot, but they will reduce down after roasting*
3 cups cubed (about half of a medium sized eggplant) Italian eggplant
3 cups halved sugar plum tomatoes (or grape)
3 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided use)
2 tsp salt (divided use)
1/2 tsp pepper (divided use)
1/2 cup Israeli couscous
1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light/reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
2 cups chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup dry roasted and unsalted pine nuts
salt and pepper
*For the dressing:
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Preheat oven to 325ºF.
1. Place eggplant cubes on a lightly greased baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over, sprinkle on 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, mix, and place back in a single layer. On separate, lightly greased, baking sheet, place halved tomatoes in a single layer with their interiors facing up. Drizzle 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil over, and sprinkle on 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Bake for 45-50 minutes. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the vegetables cool.
2. In a small sauce pot on medium heat, heat up 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Add couscous and stir. Cook until couscous becomes lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, in another small sauce pot, bring the vegetable broth and water mixture to a low boil. After the couscous is browned, slowly pour in the boiling broth mixture and stir. Bring couscous and broth to a low boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until couscous has absorbed liquids (about 12 minutes). Season lightly with salt to taste. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, combine ingredients for dressing. In large bowl, combine the couscous, eggplant, tomatoes, pine nuts, feta cheese, and basil. Pour in the dressing and mix gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Truthfully, the idea behind this salad is not really novel. The ingredients and blend of flavors seemed to resemble pretty common Mediterranean flavors. I kind of felt like I was short a few olives away from a Mediterranean vacation. Nevertheless, I fell in love with my couscous salad that was bursting with rich, earthy, and roasted eggplant bits, roasted and sweetened sugar plum tomatoes, fresh aromatic basil, crunchy pine nuts, salty feta cheese, and a good drizzle of a lemony-balsamic and red wine dressing. I really like how this salad isn’t dripping with oils–there is just the right amount! Also, in my opinion, light feta cheese is as good as the regular kind, which makes this another successful low-fat and nutritious dish. I am so glad I made plenty for leftover! ;)
Maybe tomorrow I’ll pick up some pita bread, roast some chicken, and toss in some of the extra couscous salad to make a sandwich. Mmm…sounds good already!