UPDATE: In case anyone's interested in trying the fantastic dried fruit or other products from Payson Fruit Growers, including the dried cherries I used for this salad, they're offering $3 off any order of $15 or more. The coupon code is 3off15 and will be valid for the next couple of months. Enjoy!
Does anyone still remember my chocolate series? I wouldn't be surprised if you didn't. What else could I expect when I'm the one who put it on the back-burner for over a month in favor of other festivities? Well fret not because we're getting this show back on the road for 2 more posts in this series. And I promise it's gonna end with a bang!
At the beginning of this series I promised to show you some "less common ways" for using chocolate. And there was no doubt in my mind already that at least one savory recipe would need to be included to truly fulfill that promise. A great idea I immediately came across was to add a little of the dark stuff to your chili. I did this with a pumpkin black bean chili I made last fall, and all I have to say about it is try it! You'll love the depth of flavor it adds.
And I love the role that chocolate played in this composition. Rather than the bold starlet it's accustomed to being in desserts, chocolate stepped back to play subtle but steady support in this dish. Almost acting as a spice here, the addition of cocoa powder produced a warm nutty backdrop that worked superbly to balance the brightness of orange and mint.
I was lucky to get my hands on some great quality tart dried cherries for this salad. Payson Fruit Growers sent them to me for free to review, and I've honestly been very impressed. Their dried cherries are fresh, juicy, and not a bit too sweet -- great for cooking, baking, or just for eating out of hand. I also got some tart cherry juice concentrate from them that I'll tell you more about soon. But for now, let me just encourage you to play with chocolate in this or another savory dish =D.
Cherry Pistachio Orange Cocoa Couscous Salad [Printable Recipe]
Slightly adapted from Batter Licker
Serves 2 to 4, but easily doubled or tripled
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tsp freshly grated OR frozen orange zest
Pinch of salt, plus more to taste
1 cup dry couscous
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened dried cherries, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp natural cocoa powder
1/8 tsp chili powder (optional)
2 Tbsp fresh mint, chopped
1/2 Tbsp honey
Combine water, 1 teaspoon of oil, zest, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir couscous in, cover the pot, and remove from the heat. Let stand covered for about 5 minutes, then remove the lid and fluff couscous lightly with a fork.
Stir in chopped pistachios, cherries, cocoa powder, chili powder, mint, and remaining tablespoon of oil. Add salt to taste. Taste and stir in honey if you'd prefer a sweeter taste.
PREVIOUSLY: Chocolate Chunk Challah Bread French Toast, Snickers Macarons, and Chocolate Cake Roll with Chestnut Cream