I’ve been calling San Francisco home for three weeks now and I’m pleased to report that it’s been nothing but delicious. This is a city where ‘kale’, ‘cleanse’, ‘chia’, and ‘kombucha’ are all major players in the local lexicon. For once in my adult life, I’m the one who doesn’t know what fermented-this or heritage-that is, and I couldn’t be happier. Really, it’s humbling to jump from a small pond like Boston into a huge ocean like San Francisco, where just about everyone has a highly developed opinion about our food system. In just a few weeks, I’ve learned a lot, but, mostly, that there is a lot to learn.
One thing I’ve learned is that I’ve been seriously missing out in the produce department. Vegetables are everywhere you look here, including at Walgreens. Bolthouse Farms replaces Dunkin’ Donuts as the most advertised product and there are just as many juice bars as there are Starbucks. Like a dog just let off the leash at a park, I barely know where to begin.
This couscous dish is inspired by two delicious meals I’ve had in SF. One was at Breaking Bread, a lunch spot near my office. Have you ever heard of Dutch Crunch bread? It is truly revolutionary…fluffy ciabatta-y goodness on the inside and crackly crunchy heaven on the outside. Dutch Crunch would be a stellar “ten” on its own, but the pesto aioli, turkey, avocado, and roasted vegetables take it to “eleven”. Despite the fact that my office is surrounded by other amazing eateries, I’ve been to Breaking Bread not once, but thrice.
The second meal was at Roger’s house. Roger is a family friend, and dang, he throws a good party! For his birthday this year, he invited us all over for Moroccan food and a game of Liar’s Dice (which, despite a valiant effort, I lost). Alongside the Cornish hens and lamb was a couscous dish tossed with veggies and raisins. No lie, it was spectacular.
So, here we have my Roasted Veggie Couscous. It’s healthy and easy and will always remind me of my first delicious weeks in my new home. Each ingredient lends its own flavor and every bite offers a surprising combination.
Sweet meets salty when golden raisins and feta collide and fresh compliments rich when parsley and roasted garlic land in the same spoonful.
It’s the kind of meal I could never get sick of, which is good because I made a heck of a lot of it!
Ingredients (serves 4)
1 ¼ cup couscous
1 medium eggplant
1 small zucchini
1 red bell pepper
6 cloves garlic
4 sprigs parsley
¼ cup golden raisins
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and then chop into ½ inch pieces. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt to remove excess water. Set aside (in the sink) for 30-ish minutes. Rinse quickly and pat dry.
2. Slice zucchini in half lengthwise, then crosswise to make thin half-circles. Slice garlic cloves into thirds. Slice bell pepper into ½ inch pieces.
3. Combine vegetables and garlic in a large bowl. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss until ingredients are well coated. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spread out the vegetables. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until soft. Rearrange occasionally.
4. While vegetables are baking, prepare the other ingredients. Finely chop parsley. Sauté raisins in a non-stick skillet until tender and plump. Cut the feta into small cubes. Cook couscous according to instructions on the box. I used whole wheat couscous from Trader Joe’s, which has a 1:1 water ratio.
5. Combine all ingredients (except feta) in a large bowl. Gently fold in feta cheese. Serve warm or cold. I liked it better warm, when the feta was a little melty, but still held its form.