Trawling the leftovers from my local library’s annual Book Sale (“Free!” said the sign, “Help Yourselves!”) I found Kim Sunée’s Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love and the Search for Home. I took it down to Lavallette with me and I really, really wanted to love this book. It started out very promising, with sumptuous descriptions of the cuisines of New Orleans, Stockholm and France. But halfway through, I was becoming annoyed with Keem. Three-quarters through I wanted to smack her. By the end I was just skimming from recipe to recipe. The food was amazing but frankly I couldn’t stomach any more of her search for home.
Anyway, one recipe that immediately jumped out at me was an orange couscous salad. It sounded perfect beach house fare. It was mine and Jeeps’ night to cook dinner for 14: we had chicken breasts marinating in Ken’s Steakhouse dressing, and shrimp marinating separately for kebabs. My brother-in-law was out crabbing and undoubtedly would be bringing in a catch.
I thought the couscous salad would go great with the mixed grill so I ran out to the local A & P to gather ingredients and whipped it up. It was a little labor-intensive but all-in-all a great success. Even my brother-in-law, who is no fan of couscous, liked it a lot. And he wasn’t just being nice.
I doubled the recipe given below, skipped some things and added others. It’s one of those dishes that you make by the recipe once and then improvise ever after. And you’ll notice that I brought my cutting board and knives down to Lavallette which is quite possibly the smartest thing I’ve done. Ever.
And before we begin, a short tangent on sectioning oranges, which was harder than it sounds. I knew the basic technique of cutting a slice off the top and bottom to stabilize the orange, then cutting the peel and pith off lengthwise, then cutting between the sections to get your supremes, as the French say. But this method resulted in the orange falling apart, miserably small chunks of orange clinging to large shreds of membrane, and a growing fear of slicing into my hand. My brother-in-law had already taken a trip to the ER after a mishap cleaning his crabbing knife, so I resorted to the grapefruit method of cutting the orange across horizontally, then cutting out the half-sections with my paring knife (also brought from home because my pants are smart). This worked out much better.
Orange Couscous and the Supremes Salad
- 1 cup water
- 1 10-oz box plain couscous
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
- 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 oranges
- 2 tbsps chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 tbsps chopped mint leaves (I skipped, I’m not a fan of mint so I doubled up on parsley)
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 cup golden raisins, currants or chopped dates (I skipped)
- 1 cup snow peas, roughly chopped (my own addition)
- 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (my own addition)
Bring water to a boil. Put couscous, onion and snow peas in a large serving bowl and add water, stir, cover with plastic and let steam 5 minutes. Fluff with fork. Stir in olive oil, salt and pepper. Set aside and let cool.
Zest both oranges and juice one of them. Remove peel and pith of second orange and cut into sections.
Add zest and chopped orange to couscous. Stir in parsley (and/or mint), tomatoes, cucumber, and the fruit if you’re using it. Cover and chill in refrigerator 1 hour and up to 2 days. Taste before serving and add more salt, pepper, olive oil, juice if needed.