Wednesday, July 4, 2012

My Potluck Staple: Rainbow Couscous Balsamic Salad (with Gluten-Free Quinoa Option)

When I attend family gatherings or potlucks, I always take this simple, delicious salad as a contribution. I've been asked for the recipe several times over the years, and while that was ego-boosting, nothing compares to this year, when my mom called to tell me my dad (a self-described "barbarian" who thumbs his nose at any vegan offering) specifically requested I bring "that couscous thing" to our family's Fourth of July gathering.

I'm not going to lie... I got off the phone and started running around the house, air-punching and yelling the Rocky theme: BUH NUH NUH... BUH NUH NUUUUH!

Yeah, Baby! Vegan infiltration!

Now, before I introduce the recipe, I want to make sure we're all on the same page. I think it goes without saying that produce should be washed before preparation, and when I'm talking about things like bell peppers, y'all know you need to remove the stems, blossom remnants and seeds, right? Okay? Okay!

Also, if you happen to have a sweet, well-intentioned husband who offers to run to the store for ingredients, do not - I repeat, do NOT - give in to your temptation to maim him on the spot when he comes home with baby carrots instead of full-sized carrots. Simply remind yourself, as you grate a million baby carrots and your fingertips in the process, that you must have loved him at some point. After all, you married him.

Finally, this recipe makes enough salad to feed a village. I prepare it in my giant Tupperware bowl. You may cut the recipe in half or even in quarters for normal, human-sized yields.

Rainbow Couscous Balsamic Salad

1 c. couscous (substitute quinoa to make gluten-free)
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. olive or canola oil (I like the flavor of olive oil in this salad, but you may use canola, if you prefer)

2 cans cut baby corn
1 c. slivered almonds
2 c. bite-sized broccoli florets
1 - 10 oz. carton grape tomatoes, halved into teardrops, then sliced lengthwise again into quarters
1 - 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 - 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 c. red onion, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 c. shredded carrots
handful fresh cilantro, chopped

1 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1 c. balsamic vinegar

In a saucepan, combine couscous and water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and allow to stand for 15 minutes.

Stir olive oil into cooked couscous, loosening the clumps of grains.

Dump couscous into large bowl and add almonds, prepared vegetables, beans and cilantro. Stir well.

In a bowl, whisk together garlic powder, black and cayenne pepper, nutmeg and balsamic vinegar.

Pour over couscous and vegetable mixture in large bowl and stir, stir, stir. The salad may seem a little "wet," but the couscous will remain "thirsty," soaking up some of the vinegar as the salad chills.

Cover and chill for at least three hours, allowing flavors to "marry." It's even better if you prepare the night before, and allow it to chill overnight.

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