Moroccan chicken salad (& my personal journey conquering couscous)

I know how to make quite a few different kinds of food, but couscous is not one of them.

Or at least it wasn’t up until Wednesday night. Yes, couscous is known as one of the most simple foods to cook. That is beside the point. And completely FALSE on my part.

In the past, my couscous has always turned out looking quite sad. Perhaps it was a poor water-to-couscous ratio causing drowned over-saturation or because I always “fluff” the resulting starch with a little too much enthusiasm.

See the picture below? What a nice little pile of mashed potatoes, right? WRONG WRONG WRONG. This is me when I was learning to cook two summers ago. The couscous resembled mashed potatoes and the pork “medallions” resembled chicken wings (fun fact: I have never even attempted to make chicken wings…summer mission?). I was so mortified by other similar experiences that I’ve put off trying to make couscous again for some time.

I held my breath when preparing the couscous this time around. And it worked! The couscous did what it was supposed to!! I meant to take a picture of the resulting fluffiness, but I was too hungry and ecstatic and forgot.

This recipe was inspired by one I saw in the most recent issue of Canadian Living. Remember that cooked rotisserie chicken I mentioned in my mac and cheese post? Well I bought it for this meal, and I figured I should probably use it up before I died because of chicken-snack consumption.

Wednesday evening was stiflingly hot, and this salad provided a great, non-cook meal. Though this weather makes you sweat as though you’re running a marathon with every step, it also provides me with a great challenge in the kitchen – get creative, taste fresh and stay cool. Dessert? Popsicles.

Oh yes! And leftovers were brought to a picnic I had in the park with my friend and former first-year roommate, Liz. She brought some delicious iced tea from tea & bloom and it was fun.

Meet Liz!

Recipe: Moroccan chicken salad
Adapted from Canadian Living
– 1/2 cup couscous (I used the coloured variety, obviously)
– 1 cup diced, cooked chicken (I used the Rotisserie chicken you can buy at the grocery store)
– 1/4 each sweet sweet orange pepper and sweet red pepper, diced
– 1/4 English cucumber, chopped
– 1/3 cup slivered almonds, dry toasted on the stove
– 1 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
– 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Dressing
– 2 tbsp olive oil
– 2 tbsp lemon juice
– 1/2 tbsp liquid honey
– 1/4 tsp each ground cumin and salt
– 1/4 tsp each cinnamon and chili powder
– 1/4 tsp black pepper

Over medium heat, dry toast the slivered almonds until lightly browned. Set aside.

In a large, heatproof bowl, stir 1/2 cup boiling water with the couscous. Cover and let stand until absorbed, about five minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool to room temperature.

Add chicken, the peppers, cucumber, toasted almonds, chives and cilantro. Toss.

For the dressing… Whisk everything together and drizzle over the salad. Toss to coat.

Makes 3 servings.

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