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Weekday dinner inspirations: Bluesy Israeli Couscous Salad and more

Mon | Something old

Remember Shake 'n Bake (and I helped)? Big in the '70s and still around today, the seasoned coating gives baked chicken a tasty crunch. Make your own by crushing cornflakes and adding dried seasonings of your choice. But, heck, why not go retro and pick up a packet? Serve chicken with a green salad and frozen veggies. Very old-school.

Tues | Something new

In honor of the Olympics, stop at a Chinese restaurant for takeout and order something you've never had before. Maybe substitute tofu for chicken; or spice up your usual mild dish. A favorite of mine is moo shu pork, the little pancakes filled with meat, veggies and plum sauce. More American than Chinese, but still tasty.

Wed | Rotisserie chicken

I saw a sign for chipotle rotisserie chicken at Publix last week but got there too late to partake. When you can get your hands on one, serve the spicy bird with a lettuce and tomato salad topped with guacamole, refried beans sprinkled with fresh Mexican queso blanco and warm flour tortillas.

Thurs | Something borrowed

A tip from a clever friend: Hunt through the freezer in the a.m. to see what bits of meat, sausage, poultry and seafood you have. Thaw and cook it all outside tonight. Serve the mixed grill with macaroni or potato salad and roasted green beans.

Fri | Something blue

Make my Bluesy Israeli Couscous Salad (recipe below) and serve it with grilled anything (shrimp, steak, chicken). The blue cheese in the salad brings out the nutty flavor of the couscous. Look for the pearl-sized pasta at whole food stores or in better stocked grocery stores.

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Bluesy Israeli Couscous Salad

1 box Israeli couscous, prepared according to package instructions

5 to 6 spears asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

Olive oil, to taste but at least 1/4 cup

Kosher salt

1/4 cup minced Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 to 2 medium tomatoes, diced

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts (optional)

Couscous will take about 10 minutes to cook. When there are 2 minutes left, add sliced asparagus spears. When couscous is cooked (water will be absorbed), add the olive oil to impart flavor and prevent sticking. (The warm pasta will soak up the oil so use a good one.) Season with kosher salt. Let cool to room temperature or place in fridge to chill for later use.

Just before serving, add parsley, tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and blue cheese. Stir in nuts if you're using. You may need more olive oil and salt. The dish is better if served at room temperature, because the blue cheese's flavor will have had time to bloom.

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

Source: Janet K. Keeler, Times food and travel editor

Weekday dinner inspirations: Bluesy Israeli Couscous Salad and more

08/12/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 4:30am]
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