Couscous Salad with Eggplant, Zucchini, Tomatoes & Chickpeas
2 cups couscous
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch thick lengthwise slices
1 small Romanesco zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick lengthwise slices
1 large shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons best-quality red wine vinegar
Black pepper in a mill
¼ to ½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
2 cups cherry tomatoes, preferably Sungolds, quartered
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and cut into thin rounds
½ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
8 ounces feta, preferably Bulgarian, drained and crumbled
Put the couscous into a large bowl, pour 1½ cups of water over it and set aside for 10 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
Meanwhile, pour about 3 inches of water into a large saucepan and set a strainer or a colander with very small holes over it. Dampen a clean tea towel, twist it into a loose rope and fit it in the space between the colander or strainer and the edge of the pot. Put the couscous into the strainer and set over high heat until steam rises from the couscous, about 10 to 15 minutes; do not cover the pan.
Remove the couscous from the heat by lifting out the colander or strainer and slowly drizzle a cup of water over it, raking it with a fork all the while. Return to the pan, tuck the towel around it and steam again, until the couscous has swelled to 3 times its original size.
Meanwhile, prepare a fire in an outdoor grill or heat a stove-top grill or ridged pan. Brush the eggplant with olive oil, season with salt and sprinkle with a little ground cumin and grill it, turning now and then to mark it, until it is completely tender. Set aside to cool. Prepare the zucchini similarly and grill it until just tender; it will take much less time than the eggplant. Set aside to cool and when easy to handle, cut both the eggplant and the zucchini into medium dice.
Put the shallot and garlic into a small bowl, add the lemon and vinegar and season with salt, several generous turns of black pepper and the red pepper flakes. Stir in the olive oil, taste and correct for acid balance, adding more olive oil if it is too tart. Correct for salt and pepper and set aside.
When the couscous is done, transfer it to a wide shallow bowl, fluff it with a fork and let cool. When cool, pour the dressing over it and fluff again with a fork. Add the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, chickpeas, scallions, parsley and feta, toss, taste and correct for salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature.