I'll spare you all the usual commentary about how July passed in the blink of an eye and the lamenting about how summer is passing too quickly. This past month, I rediscovered how much I love Lambrusco, a fizzy Italian red wine served chilled, when some friends brought over a beautiful bottle over for dinner, and started brainstorming recipes better suited for this style of red than the prolific rose (otherwise known as summer water) and this dinner is the result. Chicken thighs are probably the most forgiving of all cuts of chicken (it's impossible to dry out) and the Couscous salad can be made well in advance, and so, though there are a good number of components to this dinner, it was probably one of the easiest ones I've made in the past months. Harissa chicken is actually sort of a mainstay in my house - it's versatile enough for all times of the year, and takes only basic pantry items to slap together. You could just as easily throw in a can of chickpeas or serve it over rice, or fragrant rice, if you're feeling fancy. Additionally, the couscous salad would make a reasonably light lunch on it's own, and is vegetarian to boot, so truly, it is the easiest summer meal possible.
Harissa Chicken (serves 4):
- 4-5 skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons Harissa paste
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped or sliced
- approximately 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon each salt and pepper
Preheat the ovevn to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Season the chicken and pat the skin dry with paper towels. In batches, sear the chicken, skin side down, in the olive oil over medium heat in a pan that can be transferred to the oven. When the skin is brown and crisp, remove from the pan and set aside. Pour out any excess oil (you want to leave a thin layer in the pan). Sautee the garlic, Harissa paste, and tomato paste together until fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and cook on low medium heat until the sauce is bubbling. Add the chicken back to the pan, skin side up. Transfer to the oven and bake until chicken is cooked through, about 30 minutes.
For the Cous Cous Salad (serves 4):
- 2 cups cooked Pearled or Israeli Couscous
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 cucumber, seeded and diced
- 1-2 scallion stalks, green parts sliced
- 1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped roughly
- 1/2 small red onion, chopped finely
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- splash of Balsamic and/or Red Wine Vinegar
- pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
First, cook the couscous according to package instructions. Strain and let cool. While that's happening, chop and dice the rest of the vegetables and herbs. In a separate bowl, combine the lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. Add the grains and vegetables and toss. Taste, and add splashes of vinegar, to taste. This can be made ahead and refrigerated if needed.,but let it come to room temperature before serving.
Seared Halloumi (for 4):
- 2 16 oz packages Halloumi cheese
- olive oil
Do this step right before serving. Cut the Halloumi cheese into slices, approximately 1/2 inch thick.. Heat up a nonstock or cast iron pan with a thin layer of oil on the bottom until very hot. Place the cheese on until each side is brown and the edges are bubbling. Carefully flip the cheese using a flat spatula and do the same on the other side. Place this on the plate and spoon the couscous salad over it.