Inspired by Mark Bittman's make-ahead Herb Sauce and a busy Meatless Monday, these can be a great, simple grain salad ... "or burgers." The tablespoon of paprika might seem like a lot, but it's softened by the cilantro sauce. If you do decide to go the burgers route, make sure to put a little olive oil on your hands when you form the patties, and note that you'll need one egg yolk. —Nigel
Cilantro Pearl Couscous
loosely packed cilantro
peanut or other neutral oil
garlic, smashed (about one clove)
dry pearl couscous
vegetable stock (approximate)
chickpeas (one can, drained)
Reserved chickpea liquid if making burgers (see below)
Combine cilantro, peanut/corn oil and garlic in a food processor. Pulse it a few times and wipe down the sides, then sprinkle the tablespoon of lime juice over the mixture. Puree until smooth. Can be made a day ahead.
In a pot over medium-high heat, cover the couscous with the vegetable stock by about 1 inch. Bring it to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Begin to check the couscous within about 6 minutes. You want a little bite left in the grain. If any stock remains once you've gotten the consistency you like, drain the couscous.
Stir in the herb sauce while the couscous is still warm. Cover to keep warm.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan until it shimmers. Add the chickpeas -- if they sizzle, the oil is warm enough, but you don't want to fry these crisp, so not too hot.
Saute the chickpeas until heated through and they begin to brown, about five minutes. Most of the oil will be absorbed.
Finish them with the tablespoon of butter. Watch for a few eager ones to turn mushy and pull them out of the pan and into a glass bowl.
Toss the chickpeas with paprika and cumin. The chickpeas should be a little soft but not mushed. Combine them with the covered couscous for a simple grain salad or see the next step.
"Or Burgers" Step: If grain salads don't do it for you, or you'd like a closer approximation to "meat" on Meatless Monday, these can quickly become terrific patties. Cook the chickpeas down a few more minutes until they form a paste, then stir in the paprika, cumin and a little of the reserved chickpea liquid to make it a good binding paste, then combine with the egg yolk. Stir that into the couscous, oil your hands and form small patties. Fry these in olive oil or butter until just crisp. Serve on their own, on a slice of hearty bread or -- my favorite -- broil a pita to just charred and smear on a tablespoon of garlicky hummus.