Israeli Couscous with Roasted Summer Vegetables

It’s late summer, and it’s harvest time for the very best the season has to offer. They say, “what grows together, goes together,” and today, I’ve taken it to heart.

I love the combination of eggplants, zucchini, shallots, garlic, tomato, basil, and corn and it’s with the blend of these ingredients that we can enjoy with full contentment on a weeknights dinner, without missing the coveted side of protein.

Don’t get me wrong, this would be fabulous with a grilled chicken breast cutlet, or a charred flat iron beef steak, sliced into tender strips and strewn about the plate, but it’s hot enough outside without adding to the heat index indoors, and this dish, even left to its own devices, serves as a perfectly satisfying dinner all on its own. Then, add a glass of wine – perfect!

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Preparation is incredibly simple also, and this veggie-packed dish is filled with so much of what our bodies need, naturally!

During my travels abroad, I learned that eggplant, also called aubergine, has small amounts of nicotine, making it a great, natural way for smokers to use the benefits of the plant for smoking cessation. If you’ve already put them down, but find yourself still having cravings for nicotine, this is one way to satisfy the craving without resorting to lighting up. Also, surprisingly enough, the eggplant is actually not a vegetable– joining tomatoes on the tricky fruit list.

Also, do you see those lovely sprigs of basil? I took one of them, put them in a glass of water until I saw roots sprout, then I planted that in my garden. My new basil plant is doing lovely! It has only a couple of months to go, however, before the end of its life cycle. However, I plan to harvest as much as I can and dry it out for use in the cold, basil-free months of the year.

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Now, I know that eggplant isn’t the most popular vegetable around here, but it really should be! It can hold a lot of oil and can be sometimes bitter when the seeds are large, but the best way that I’ve found to prepare it is to cut it how you want it in your recipe, then let it soak in a bowl of salted water for roughly 10 minutes. This draws the extra water out of the flesh and takes bitterness away. You will see how discolored the water will be after just a short time!

Plus, who can resist a plate of veggies (and, ahem, fruits) topped with grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheese and toasted, garlicky bits of bread? I’m not raising my hand.

If you want to try more eggplant, try this recipe for Eggplant Moussaka, a traditional Turkish regional dish with a rich tomato sauce.

What are your favorite eggplant or aubergine recipes? Let me know in the comments below!

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Summer Vegetables

serves 6

1 cup pearled Israeli couscous
1 medium eggplant (aubergine)
1 medium zucchini
1 ear of corn, kernels removed
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, seperated
1 bunch basil, chiffonade
1 tsp. cumin
1 pinch cayenne pepper

For the sauteed breadcrumbs and topping:
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup grated Pecorino and Parmesan, mixed
salt, pepper to taste

Dressing:
juice from 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper
fresh herbs: oregano, chives, parsley, dill

Boil the couscous according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

Cut the eggplant into chunks, then submerge in a bowl of salted water for around 10 minutes. Prepare the other vegetables in the meantime.

Chop the zucchini into chunks, then set aside with the other vegetables. Add the olive oil to a heavy-bottomed sautee pan. Add the shallots and garlic over a medium flame and fry until fragrant. Add the eggplant and saute for roughly three minutes, then add the zucchini and corn. Fry for another three minutes, then add the tomatoes, the spices, and herbs. Simmer over medium heat until the tomatoes burst and start to caramelize. Remove from heat.

In a separate pan, add the other tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic clove. When the olive oil has been scented with the garlic, add the breadcrumbs and toss until they brown. Remove from the pan and let cool. Mix with the grated cheeses and season with salt and pepper.

When all the items are room temperature, toss the vegetables, the dressing and herbs. Top with the toasted breadcrumbs and cheese mixture.