Chow Bella

Aztec Couscous Salad

It might be mid-October, but (much to the chagrin of fall-lovin' Phoenicians) this week we're looking at high temperatures in the 90s. Let's look on the bright side and bring out our favorite hot weather foods before the cold air signals that it's time to start making stew again.

Whether you're headed to a picnic or just need an easy dinner recipe, Aztec Couscous Salad is one vegetarian dish that anyone can enjoy. It makes a great lunch, light dinner, or side dish, and it's quick to toss together. The final result is colorful and healthy with roasted red peppers, corn, black beans, scallions, and cilantro, and the recipe is simple to play around with to suit different tastes.

Learn how to make it after the jump.

Vegetarians can find this recipe in Lorna Sass' Short Cut Vegetarian.
Omnivores can find this recipe in Sass' Whole Grains for Busy People. (Who doesn't need that?)

You'll need:
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup whole-wheat couscous
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. granulated garlic
1 can of black beans, rinsed
2 whole scallions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
3 to 4 tbsp. fresh lime juice

Start by placing the couscous in a heavy-bottomed pan or Dutch oven. Use a wooden spoon to vigorously stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Continue stirring until the little beads of couscous are thoroughly coated with the oil. Add the salt, cumin, garlic, and corn.

According to the couscous package instructions, stir in either 1 cup or 1.5 cups of boiling water, then cover and let sit off the heat for 5 minutes. Fluff up with a fork.

While the couscous is steeping, combine the beans, scallions, cilantro, roasted red pepper, and jalapeño in a large bowl. Toss in the couscous mixture, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and the lime juice. Season with additional salt if needed.

Lorna Sass is an expert at designing practical recipes, but the best part is that she offers suggestions to alter her carefully-crafted dishes. For Aztec Couscous Salad, she suggests using pickled jalapeño instead or adding 1/4 cup of chopped stuffed olives. Another idea is to stuff the salad into avocado halves or into a pita with some lettuce, which are great ways to use up any leftovers.

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Dominique Chatterjee