A Special Summertime Salad
By Dennis Linden
Here’s a wonderful couscous dish from the summertime kitchen of Steve Fruchter in Melissa’s Retail Sales Department. Steve’s recipe is the perfect side dish to kick off the grilling season. It can be served warm or cold and combines a tasty collection of seasonal fresh veggies with two of Melissa’s most popular packaged items: Couscous with Lemon Seasoning and Steamed Lentils.
“Couscous is so versatile, you can gather the season's best fresh ingredients and/or substitute regional specialty crops into the recipe,” explained Steve. “The recipe truly captures the flavors of raw seasonal ingredients that are chopped and then mixed into the couscous. My favorite grilling combo is to serve this dish with my own special BBQ Baby Back Ribs and a tall, cold glass of Alaskan Smoked Porter beer – for me this is the essence of summertime! I hope you enjoy it.”
Couscous can be traced back to its culinary origins in Morocco and North Africa where the dish has been a staple of nomadic tribes for centuries due to the grain’s quick and easy preparation. Basically, the wheat durum was poured into a pot of slightly boiling camel’s milk, stirred once, covered and taken off the campfire flame to set for a few minutes. Melissa’s has added a very tasty lemon-flavored herbal packet and I would suggest plain water over trying to milk a camel!
Steve does suggest going the extra mile to source fresh English peas for this dish and I agree. “While many think peas grow in a can,” Steve commented with a smile. “They were once very prevalent at retail and in home gardens." Fresh peas from the pod have a unique crunchy texture and natural sweetness that really makes this dish. Use fresh frozen if you have to substitute as canned peas will “mush up” this dish.
Appropriately, for the taste test of Steve’s dish, I served it chilled to a group of friends at an outdoor event on a warm evening. The star ingredient that received the most comments was Steve’s touch of fresh mint, which all agreed really made this dish stands out. I heard more than one surprised “wow” reaction with many of my guests’ first bite. That evening did generate one cooking tip that I should mention – triple this recipe when serving it to a group if you want to have any chance of having some leftovers and it might be a good to hold a little back to insure it as this dish tastes improves the day after. When the party was over, the bowl of Steve couscous was empty though the guests did not eat it all – instead everyone wanted some to take home! So increase measures and have a pile of Tupperware containers standing by!
Steve Fruchter has been a member of the Melissa’s family for almost 20 years. He works with several wholesale, retail, and club store accounts across the country. “I provide our customers with updates on new Melissa’s products and seasonal produce available, offer promotional opportunities and facilitate their orders,” explained Steve. “It’s a business of good relationships and mutual partnership. The buyers and merchandisers know they can come to me for advice regarding Melissa’s products and programs.”
Away from the office Steve admits to being a bit of a foodie who really enjoys creating his own take on recipes found on-line or served in local restaurants using healthier ingredients. “What can I say, it’s an occupational hazard. I spend my professional day talking to our customers about all the healthy, fresh choices we offer seasonally; so it’s become second nature to come home and experiment with those same fresh ingredients at my own table!” This couscous dish is a great example of Steve talking his work home with him. Enjoy!
Summer Couscous Salad
1 pkg. Couscous with seasoning packet
1 pkg. Melissa's Steamed Lentils
8 Marzano Tomatoes, 4 of them cut in half / 4 left whole
2 Veggie Sweet Mini Peppers, sliced
2 Tbsp. Melissa’s Cleaned & Sliced Leeks
Other Fresh Ingredients
30 fresh English Peas, uncooked, removed from pods (if unavailable sub fresh frozen / not canned!)
1 Green Summer Squash, sliced into bite size pieces (or 2-3 baby size squash)
1 Yellow Sunburst Squash, sliced into bite size pieces (or 2-3 baby size squash)
1 Tbsp. Fresh Mint leaves, julienned
1 Tbsp. Cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. raw Pumpkin Seeds, shelled
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
6 oz. crumbled Feta Cheese
Prepare Melissa's Couscous with seasoning packet according to package instructions.
In a large mixing bowl combine the couscous with all the rest of the ingredients. Transfer to serving platter or salad bowl. Can be served immediately while couscous is still warm or refrigerate to serve chilled.