July 24, 2011

Middle Eastern Inspired Dinner Party: Roasted Eggplant Cous Cous

Friday night we had MG's cousin and his wife over for dinner to welcome them back to DC after living for several years in Macedonia (and even more years in several other countries).  Originally we planned to eat on the roof, but the recent warm-up made that seem like a less than desirable idea.

Nonetheless, we still decided to center our dinner around grilled rosemary-lemon chicken kebabs and I cooked up two Middle Eastern-inspired side dishes, a moroccan carrot salad and roasted eggplant cous cous.  Thursday afternoon I hit up the farmers' market by my office to get some necessities for our feast.


Crazy carrot!  It was hard to cut.

Roasting up the aforementioned produce.

The finished product, waiting to be consumed.

The moroccan carrots.  There was a final prep stage that involved topping them with toasted pine nuts and fresh mint.  It looked super pretty, so of course I forgot to take a picture.

Devouring my work-product.  
Check out those awesome looking kebabs!  Thanks, MG, for braving the heat to stand on the roof in front of an open grill and cook these for us.

We had a great time relaxing with MG's family and enjoying our dinner with a nice Macedonian white wine.  Dessert was vanilla ice cream and berries.  I don't know about you, but that's basically my idea of a perfect summer Friday evening.

Roasted Eggplant Cous Cous

Serves 8 as a side dish

2 lbs eggplant, quartered and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 large red onion, quartered and cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 summer squash, halved and cut into 1/4 inch slices
5 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp cumin
juice of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lemon
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 cup cous cous (or Israeli, or pearl, cous cous)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves (optional - you could also substitute parsley, or you could buy parsley to substitute, and then forget it in the refrigerator)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees - the original recipe set it at 450, but my first batch of onions burnt to a crisp, so I dropped the heat the second time around. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggplant, red onion and summer squash, plus 3 tbsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp of salt, and the cumin.  Toss to coat the veggies completely.

Spread the veggies out on two foil-lined baking sheets, making sure to get them in a flat layer for even roasting.  Roast veggies in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Remove the pans, flip the veggies over so the other side gets roasted nicely, and replace in the oven, making sure to rotate and switch the rack positions of the pans for even cooking.  Continue roasting for another 10 minutes, and then check on them.  The veggies should be soft and golden brown.  Note: if you have a normal sized apartment oven, you'll probably have to do this in 2 batches, so budget your time accordingly.

Meanwhile, cook the cous cous according to the directions on the container.  For regular cous cous (what I used), you'll want to boil about 1.5 cups of salted water.  Add cous cous, cover with a lid, remove from heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

While the cous cous is doing its thing, make the dressing.  In the bottom of the serving bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, minced garlic, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt.  Slowly add the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil while whisking.   Fluff the cous cous with a fork and add to the bowl with the dressing.  Add the roasted vegetables and mix until everything is covered with the dressing.  

This can be served warm or at room temperature.  Just prior to serving, top with chopped cilantro or parsley (or don't, remember after the fact, and then have a fun time thinking up a way to use an entire bunch of parsley).*


*Dinner this week: fattoush.

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