Meh, it's more like I'm back with a gentle rat-a-tat.
I had hoped to return to you with an inspired and supremely superior food creation, but alas, you'll just have to settle for one of the most peculiar, interesting, and yes, delicious dishes I've had in quite some time.
Nectarines. I can't say I've ever had much use for them, but they were absolutely key in this simple yet complex side. In fact, I found myself rooting around, trying to make sure every bite contained some of the sweet, juicy fruit. If that didn't happen, the consolation prizes weren't too shabby--crunchy sliced almonds, hunks of salty and tangy feta, toothy chickpeas, bits of sharp scallion, and shreds of verdant basil were also scattered throughout the creamy couscous.*
*Can we say adjective abuse? I think so.
And how pretty is this bowl of yum? I love all the colors, and couscous is always a looker. (As a bonus, it's an extremely fun word to pronounce--have you ever looked at a person's mouth when he says it? Hilarious.)
Creamy and Colorful Couscous
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
1 lb couscous or other small pasta
3 cups chicken stock
2 lemons, juiced and zested
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup nectarines, chopped
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup scallions, thinly sliced
In a medium saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook until toasted and lightly browned, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Carefully add the stock and half of the lemon juice, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the couscous is tender, but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the couscous.
In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with the remaining olive oil, remaining lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper and let cool.
Once the couscous is room temperature, add the remaining components. Toss to combine and serve.