Saturday, May 19, 2012

North African Mixed Grill

In my travels, I spent about six weeks total (over two different trips) in North Africa. I think I'm the type of person that falls in love with different cultures pretty easily. It doesn't take much for me to be wooed and wowed by the food, music, and people of places that are different than what I've grown up with. I love trying new things and, honestly, a good food experience can make me a fan in no time.

That's what happened when I went to Tunisia. Settled on the Mediterranean/North African coast, just below Italy, it is a culture infused with olives, hot chili peppers, lamb, seafood, and pungent spices. My love and tolerance for spicy food was birthed in Tunisia, and I will be forever grateful for the experience.

One of the staples of Tunisian cuisine is merguez, a rich and slightly spicy lamb sausage that is often served with couscous and vegetables. So, when we found some of this sausage at the public market in Seattle, we took some home and stored it in the freezer for a special dinner.

I defrosted it overnight, and planned to grill them up with some great zucchini and asparagus that we got in our CSA box. We also had spring onions, so I threw those in as well.

I had also just made a Costco trip and had some rotisserie chicken ready to eat. I cut up the breast meat and sprinkled it with a little spice rub made up of coriander, cumin, granulated garlic, salt, pepper, and some paprika. Then I put that on the grill just to heat it through.

To accompany the grilled fare, I made a coucous, also with some fresh ingredients from the CSA box. We got mint (another inspiration for the meal) and then I saved some of the green parts from the spring onions to add to it.

To make the couscous, I used Trader Joe's Whole Wheat CousCous. I follow the intructions on the box and use a 1:1 ratio, couscous to liquid. I didn't have any chicken stock, but wanted to make it more flavorful, so I added 1/2 a cube of chicken bouillon to the water as it cooked, along with a 1/2 tsp of olive oil and a dash of salt.

As the water boiled, I gathered some other fun ingredients to put into the couscous: raisins and slivered almonds (which I toasted lightly in a dry sautee pan).

When the water boils, you turn off the heat and cover the pan to let it steam. After a few minutes the grain is ready to be fluffed up with a fork and then you can add all the goodies - in went the raisins, almonds, onions, and mint.

Paired with the merguez, chicken, and veggies, this made for a filling and healthy meal. The sausage was a little on the game-y side, so my husband wasn't a huge fan, but that just meant there was more for me! He did enjoy everything else though (note: that was everything that I made!). And, it was a fun way to literally spice up the Costco chicken. It's amazing how easy it is to bring ingredients that seemed a little random together to make something tasty and nostalgic at the same time. It brings back great memories of eating with my North African friends!

May you be inspired to cook up something that reminds you of your travels or just good food experiences of the past - to share them with others and relive the memories...happy cookin'.

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