Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Chicken Kebabs & Couscous Salad

I love skewers of grilled meat. As the weather warms up, I get the urge to grill pretty much every night. Last night (Tuesday) I invented a little salad with couscous and other goodies to accompany it. My son asked for white rice, so I made some. Simple, fresh, healthy, yummy.

Chicken Kebabs
Couscous Salad
White Rice

Chicken Kebabs
(serves 3)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat and cut into 1" chunks
1/4 c. white cooking wine (I used Chinese rice wine)
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, crushed and minced

Toss all ingredients together in a small bowl. Salt generously - about 1 tsp or more. Mix thoroughly. Marinate at room temperature for 30-60 minutes. Skewer chicken onto metal or bamboo skewers.

Cook on a hot grill, searing on all sides, until cooked through.

Couscous Salad
(serves 3)
3/4 c. uncooked couscous
1 c. water
1 tsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
~10 cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
~6-8 large fresh basil leaves, cut into narrow ribbons, then cut crosswise into small pieces
1/4 c. pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
1 slice of red onion (about 3-4" in diameter), rings separated and cut into 1/4" pieces
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
~1 tsp. fresh lemon juice - cut the bottom 1/2" from a lemon and squeeze its juice onto the salad
freshly ground pepper
salt to taste

Bring water, butter and salt to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, stir in couscous, let sit uncovered for 5 minutes, then fluff thoroughly with a fork, breaking up clumps. Transfer to medium-sized bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and stir. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust as needed.

White Rice
3/4 c. long-grain white rice
water for cooking

Place the rice in a medium saucepan. Rinse as follows: Pour in cold water and swirl with your hand to agitate loose starch. Pour off the cloudy water. Repeat 3-5 times. After rinsing, cover the rice with about 1/2 inch of water. Place over medium-high heat, covered, and bring to a boil. Immediately turn the heat to its lowest setting and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and leave covered for 10 minutes more. Fluff by stirring with a large spoon.

Do NOT stir rice while it's cooking. Don't open the lid. The best way to make rice involves the least possible effort. Also, find the best quality long-grain rice you can. I like to go to Asian markets and ask which rice is best. The range of quality is surprising.

This is a fast, easy meal. I made the whole thing in about 45 minutes (because of marinating time), with only about 20 minutes of work time. Start with the chicken, and while it's marinating rinse an start the rice and prepare the salad. Grill the skewers. Presto, prestissimo! Serve!

Use a very sharp knife when cutting fresh herbs, and don't crush them - slice them. As someone once said to me, if your cutting board is green after cutting herbs, you left a bunch of flavor ground into the board.

When grilling meat, test for done-ness with the flat side of tongs. Raw meat is soft, and it gets progressively firmer as it cooks. Getting these skewers well-browned requires hot heat, so they'll cook pretty fast - 6-9 minutes.

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