This couscous salad includes some unique ingredients that complement each other incredibly well! The original recipe is from 30 Minute Meals: A Commonsense Guide and I have tweaked it with a few healthy adjustments. Although there are many components to this salad, the preparation is fairly straightforward. My fiancé has mastered this recipe and it is delicious both warm and cold.
- 2 cups apple juice
- 2 cups couscous
- 1/2 red onion
- 1/3 cup toasted pistachio nuts
- 8 dried apricots or figs
- 1/3 cup green olives
- fresh mint
- fresh parsley
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp ras el hanout (to create this spice blend yourself please find recipe here)
- 2 chicken or turkey breasts
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 tbsp mint
- 2 tsp ras el hanout
- 1 tsp honey
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush a thin layer of olive oil on it.
- Preheat the oven to 350°, and put the baking sheet in the oven while it heats up.
- Cut the chicken or turkey breast into strips and coat with the ras el hanout.
- Once the oven has reached 350° place the strips on the baking sheet.
- Cook for 12-15 minutes, flip and cook for another 5 minutes.
- While the chicken is cooking heat the apple juice in a pot until hot.
- Put the couscous in a heat-resistant and pour the apple juice overtop. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
- During this time thinly slice the red onion, apricots (or figs) and green olives.
- Fluff couscous with a fork and add the onion, pistachios, apricots and green olives.
- Roughly chop a handful of mint and parsley to add mix in the salad.
- The final step is to make the yogurt dressing. Combine the yogurt, chopped mint, ras el hanout and honey in a bowl.
- To serve, fill a bowl with a generous amount of the couscous salad, lay some strips of chicken or turkey on top, then add a spoonful of the yogurt dressing.
Mint comes in many varieties that are available year round (Spirling and Daniels, 2011). The two most common mints used for cooking are peppermint and spearmint (often simply labelled mint). These aromatic herbs are well known for aiding with intestinal ailments and symptoms such as nausea, abdominal pain, indigestion and bloating. Research has shown that mint’s soothing qualities are due to its ability to lessen smooth muscle contractions in the intestines by blocking calcium channels while also decreasing the passage of calcium into cells (Baliga and Rao, 2010). Interestingly, a double blinded placebo-controlled study found that ingesting peppermint oil capsules prior to a colonoscopy lessened procedure time, colonic spasms and pain (Shavakhi, et al., 2012). A great deal of research has also shown positive results surrounding the topic of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A study by Cappello, et al., (2007) completed a double-blinded study with participants ailed by IBS. They were given either peppermint oil capsules or a placebo for a series of weeks and results showed an evident decrease in IBS symptoms among 75% of the group taking the peppermint oil capsules. These results have been mirrored in other studies and are very promising for individuals who unfortunately suffer IBS and other gastric disorders. Mint has also been shown to improve cognitive functioning. A noteworthy study demonstrated that peppermint aroma increased both alertness and memory among 144 participants who were randomized to various aromas (Moss, et al., 2008). In addition to improving cognitive performance, peppermint has an abundance of healthy minerals and vitamins such as fiber, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins A, B and C (USDA, 2012). Taken as a whole, this breath freshening (Zirwas and Otto, 2010) herbal plant is not only healthy to consume but can be fantastically versatile in fresh fruit salads, mains and soothing tea.
Hummus is a delicious snack that is sufficiently satisfying and nutritious. There are many, many variations of hummus and this particular combination is my favourite…for now. I have added roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes which are certainly not traditional ingredients but taste delicious nonetheless. It’s easy to prepare and lasts for a few days in the refrigerator.
- 1-2 cloves garlic
- 1 19oz liq can chickpeas
- 3 tbsp tahini
- 2 sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 lemon
- 7 green olives
- salt & pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 1/2-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- To roast the garlic first cut the tips off of the garlic ends. Wrap in aluminum foil with a little olive oil and place in the oven for approximately 40 minutes. Remove the skins after roasting.
- In a blender, combine roasted garlic, rinsed and drained chickpeas, tahini, juice of one lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, green olives, salt, pepper and paprika.
- While blending, slowly add the olive oil until your desired consistency.
- Add a handful of washed parsley and blend for another minute.
Tahini is a main ingredient in all hummus recipes and adds a nutty taste and smooth texture. This paste is made from ground sesame seeds and is considered to be one of the oldest condiments (Anilakumar, 2010). The first recorded documentation of this seed dates back 4000 years to Assyrian texts which describe preparation of sesame seed wines for their gods (Parry, 1955). In the early days of sesame seed cultivation, the oil from the seeds was highly prized because of its year round availability and strong resistance to becoming rancid (Moazzami, 2006). This wonderful preservation quality is due to the unique number of lignans such as sesamolin and sesamol that are found within the sesame seed (Obiajunwa, et al., 2005). These antioxidants have been studied for their positive effects on lowering cholesterol levels (Matsumura, 2004) and blood pressure (Noguchi, et al., 2001). Interestingly, these same antioxidants have a practical use in vegetable oil products such as margarine because they can dramatically increase shelf life (Brar, 1982). Sesame seeds also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (Harris, et al., 2009) and aid with proper brain development and function (Innis, 2012). Although these seeds are very tiny they have an abundance of minerals such as calcium, copper, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and zinc (USDA, 2012). These minerals are essential for normal body processes such as reducing inflammation, building bones and the prevention of osteoporosis. As well, these nutrients are vital for supporting a healthy vascular system by improving blood vessel strength and elasticity (Hyun, et al., 2004). In summary, this small seed contains heart healthy fats and many essential minerals necessary for a healthy body. The classic ‘open sesame’ phrase from Arabian Nights may have opened the door to a wealth of riches but what Ali Baba didn’t know was that it also lead to a wealth of health!