Daily routine when I want to get the car and go out in Beirut. First, if my daughter is with me, I ask her to kindly swivel the outside mirrors inwards in order to give me one and a half inch extra space on each side of the car. Then I pull the car out of the garage very slowly (an inch at a time) and make sure Ali, the valet parking attendant (there is a clothing store in the building) knows I am pulling out; he then stops incoming traffic (except scooters, who go anywhere in any direction they please); using his right hand fingers that he swats continuously, he makes sure I can actually get the car out without hitting the vehicles parked on both sides of the street, the concrete walls, any drivers that ignored his signals or any pedestrians… (the width of the street is barely enough for my Honda and a spare inch).
After about ten intense minutes of wheel turning, to the left, right and backwards, my neck veins about to erupt and my heart beating at160 beats a minute, Ali nods calmly (while the six to eight cars that he stopped honk in tow), and tells me ” You are done, lady, now go, and Allah be with you (allah ma’ek)”.
Dates are a much beloved fruit in the middle-east, especially during Ramadan; an old friend of my dad’s is visiting from Baghdad and brought a box of these, as sweet as can be, with a flesh so soft it melts in your mouth. This couscous salad is composed of these dates, some orange segments, chick peas and for a little kick some fresh zaatar, yet another variety of oregano grown in Lebanon and called zaatar akhdar or green zaatar.
This zaatar is pungent and is used in salads usually (although I tried it in a pesto); it can be substituted for any green with a peppery taste, such as dandelion or radish greens or baby arugula.
The dressing for this salad is simply fresh orange juice, olive oil and a dash of curry powder.
- 1/2 package of couscous or 250 g
- a cube of vegetable bouillon (optional, or water)
- a cup of chopped green onions
- a cup of fresh zaatar or a handful of radish greens or dandelion or baby arugula
- 4 large oranges
- olive oil, as needed
- 1 can of chick peas (garbanzo), rinsed, drained and boil simmer a bit in fresh water, then peeled if possible
- 1 cup (or more) of dates, pitted and chopped coarsely
- salt, pepper, to taste, and a dash of curry powder
- Cook the couscous according to the directions on the package, using the vegetable bouillon instead of water if desired.
- Make the dressing: juice the oranges, leaving two for segments; add double the volume of olive oil and some salt, pepper and curry to taste.
- When the couscous is ready, add the peeled chick peas, the dates, green onions, orange segments cut in half and zaatar. Mix and add the dressing, mixing it beforehand to make sure it is well emulsified. Serve.
NOTE: This salad is also delicious with the addition of grated carrots and raisins.
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