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Couscous with Zucchini, Basil and Peas

You can enhance a simple dish like couscous and vegetables by deepening the flavors of the main ingredients. For example, cook your couscous in chicken broth instead of water, or at least in water plus a bouillon cube. And if you are making something involving sautéed zucchini, you should also be reaching for the anchovy jar. Like so: Start with a medium to largish zucchini, one or two thick summer scallions (more if they’re on the thinner side, or you could use a small onion if you want), a handful of fresh basil leaves, plus a cup of fresh or frozen peas. Slice the scallions, separate the white parts from the green and reserve the green until a bit later. Cube the zucchini (you can also slice it into half circles if you prefer, but the cubes work very well here). Roughly chop the basil leaves, leaving some of them in longer ribbons. If you are using fresh peas you should probably pre-cook them for two or three minutes – steam them or boil them quickly.

In a largish pan, heat about 1 generous Tbs olive oil and 1-2 anchovy filets in a little bit of their oil. Stir a bit so the anchovies break up – they should dissolve into the oil. Keep the heat at medium  to medium high and add the white parts of the scallions. After a minute or so, add the zucchini and leave the heat high for a bit so they can brown. Once the zucchini have gotten a bit of color and things are getting tender, maybe four to five minutes later, stir, and add in about half the basil leaves, the green parts of the scallions and the peas. You might want to add some smoked Spanish paprika (pimento) at this point.

Stir together, let it heat through, then deglaze the pan and cool it all down with a good splash of dry vermouth (or white wine of your choice). Add the remaining basil leaves. Don’t forget to make the couscous (according to package directions but using at least half chicken broth for the liquid); it’s fast, but you could start it once you get the zucchini going too, if you plan on mixing everything together in the pan in the end.

You can either serve the vegetables over the couscous, or mix the finished couscous into the pan with the zucchini, which I highly recommend. Mixing it all together means that the couscous will pick up the yummy browned bits and all the liquid in the pan.

You could add some crumbled feta or perhaps goat cheese to this, but taste first to see how salty things got with the anchovies and chicken broth in play. You wouldn’t want to add feta to something that is already salty enough, but goat cheese or some mozzarella might work. What you should have, due to the broth and the anchovies, is a deepening of flavor, an umami effect basically. Makes a good dinner or lunch, and works either hot from the pan or just slightly warm at a summer room temperature.

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