Kitchen Roselli, 131 Main and Greek couscous salad

Something in the Thai Steak Salad dressing at 131 Main in Cornelius (NC) tugged at the corners of my palate. Something familiar but unusual in an entrée salad. A blast of  summery green not usually keeping company with butter-tender bits of filet mignon. They added fresh mint to amp up the beef, mango, noodles and green onions. Good thing I’d started with the wild mushroom-artichoke soup because the Thai flavorings would have blown that mild-mannered soup out of the water, taste-wise.

Three days after that Stoic the Vast and I made our winding way to Kitchen Roselli in East Bend (NC), another taste treat from start to finish. I know it was really good because Stoic didn’t go ballistic over the bill. The service was lovely, it was the best antipasto I’ve ever eaten (good cheeses and salami are key), they make their own bread, pasta and desserts. Stoic had a gargantuan cream puff drenched in dark chocolate and I (virtuous smirk) had lemon sorbet. Of course, I also drank about half the bottle of Sicilian wine that tasted like Michael Corleone’s bee-buzzing honeymoon  looked (but without the nasty explosions).

Easy to put together, this couscous salad makes 10 servings -- enough for several lunchboxes.
Easy to put together, this couscous salad makes 10 servings — enough for several lunchboxes.

Then Monday we finally had a sunny spring day and I felt like cooking, not just like eating (a key difference). I tried the Greek Couscous with Olives from a recent American Profile newspaper supplement, and both I and Stoic were enthusiastic. The thread here is fresh herbs — mint in the Thai salad, basil in the penne with vodka sauce and rosemary on Kitchen Roselli’s focaccia and mint in this salad.

A tiny piece of Krusteaz’s honey cornbread, a dish of applesauce and the last of the Villa Pozzi Nero d’Avola made a terrific supper. I’m struggling to keep myself on the diet wagon, and with food and drink like this, I feel as though I’ve eaten something, not just anything. I’d suggest tasting your red onion before adding it. If it’s got as much of a whammy as ours did, you might want to soak it in ice water for an hour or so before combining with other ingredients. Either that or chop it into pieces big enough to pick out!

Shirley Herb from Northumberland (PA), about 25 minutes from where I grew up, submitted this good recipe to American Profile. Take it to picnics this summer because it’s good, it’s different and it has no easily perishable ingredients.

Greek couscous with olives

1-1/4 cups water

1 cup couscous (whole wheat if you like)

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1/2 cup chopped red onion

6 ounces marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered

1 cup ripe olives, minced

3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, shredded

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 generous pinch salt

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (I used slightly less)

1/2 cup good-quality olive oil (make sure, because this is what you’ll taste)

Romaine lettuce

Tomato wedges

3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts**

Bring water to boil. Pour over couscous in heat-resistant pan or bowl. Cover, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

Add bell pepper, onion, artichokes, olives and cheese to couscous and toss.

In glass jar with lid combine mint, garlic, pepper, salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Shake well to blend.

Pour dressing over couscous mixture and stir to combine. Refrigerate, covered, until chilled.

To serve, line salad bowl or individual salad servers with Romaine leaves. Garnish couscous mixture with tomato and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serves 10 at 250 calories, 17 g fat each.

** I like to say I’m not a Wal-Mart fan, but their pine nuts cost a fraction of  others’ prices. Also, have you tried their Cara Cara oranges? Seedless and the taste is somewhere between that of a naval orange and, a blood orange.

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