Near East Couscous for a Cause Dinner

by Andie Mitchell on May 8, 2011

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A few weeks ago Near East asked me if I’d like to be a part of their Couscous for a Cause dinner campaign, an effort to raise awareness of hunger in Washington state. By hosting a Near East sponsored dinner party, the company would donate 250 boxes of couscous to Northwest Harvest, Washington’s hunger relief agency.

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Of course I did.

I am always behind a heartened cause.

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Now, I’m not very brand loyal when it comes to food. In most cases I find generics, store brands and the like, to suit my tastes just as well as the big labels. Racking my brain now for ones I swear by, only a handful of brands come to mind: Hellmann’s mayonnaise, Heinz ketchup, Bonne Maman raspberry preserves, and then, Near East. The thing is, my mother has been buying the line for years. Different flavors, different pilafs, but always this brand. It’s nostalgic to me in the same way Drake’s Ring Dings and Yodels are. The best kind of taste memory.

Maybe you buy it already. Maybe you love it too. Maybe you’re loyal to another grain. Maybe you want me to stop starting sentences with the same ‘m’ word*.

*Apologies.

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A dinner party was planned.

Seattle is just starting to dry off and freshen up, so it seemed only appropriate to eat outside on the roof deck. More appropriate than, say, when I decided to try Thanksgiving outside. Daniel, get over it.

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I marinated beef sirloin in an herby, lemon olive oil, then grilled it to a hot pink center, sliced it thinly, and served it over a wildly flavorful Greek couscous salad with feta, fresh lemon, zucchini, and parsley. On the side, grilled sweet red onions, zucchini, and summer squash.

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We wined, we dined, we laughed. We listened as Daniel shared anecdotes about me and my penchant for sitting on counter tops, tucking my sweatshirt into my pajama bottoms, and using my sleeve as a cozy for a pint of ice cream.

Nothing out of the ordinary.

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But the meal.

The steak was juicy and tender. Charred and crusted from the open flames of the grill, with the rosiest, most satiny middles. Marinating is the only way to go.

The couscous. Oh the couscous. She was lovely. Chunky with diced zucchini, crumbled feta cheese, and a fine mince of fresh herbs. I began with Near East Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil couscous, which cooked and practically fluffed itself in five minutes. I then dressed the hot grains in fresh lemon juice and zest, with a heavy palmful of minced parsley and scallions, and let it chill in the fridge for the flavors to blend and soak.

The grilled vegetables. You know how those go. Sweet and slightly blackened. Crisp yet soft centered.

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For the first time in a while (fib: ever), I laid out a tablecloth, beachy white, with bright Mediterranean linen napkins. I wrapped each in a shiny silver napkin ring that my mother sent me from Crate and Barrel. Mom, I hope this is the start of many a cross-country care package. No, seriously.

This dinner was a joy. Thanks to Near East for sending me a couscous care package (Mom, take note.), and thanks for allowing me to buy local, grass-fed beef and fresh organic produce to celebrate with my nearest and dearest. Food means so much to me, and I know, to you too.

 

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Greek Lemon and Feta Couscous Salad

serves 5-6

1 ¼ cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 box Near East Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil Couscous

1 lemon, juiced and zested

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 small zucchini, finely diced

Bring the chicken broth and olive oil to a boil in a medium pot. Add couscous and the roasted garlic spice pack. Stir, cover, remove from heat, and let sit for 10 minutes to allow the couscous to absorb the broth and then cool slightly.

Fluff with a fork, let stand for 5 minutes to cool, then toss the couscous with remaining ingredients. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

 

*I received free Near East products in conjunction with this blog post. Near East did not, however, influence my opinions and review.

 

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Elena @ GagaForGrapefruit May 9, 2011 at 12:46 am

i LOVE near east :) it really does make my heart feel warm! i can’t wait to try that recipe! glad the dinner went well girl :)

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Johnny May 9, 2011 at 2:22 am

The cause was a good one and the dinner looked fantastic! Just the kind of meal we love to eat. By the way finally made your choc. chip cookies and they were,as reported, chewy and gooey! :) Have a wonderful day!

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Lauren at Keep It Sweet May 9, 2011 at 3:06 am

That dinner looks delicious! Yodels… OMG

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chelsey @ clean eating chelsey May 9, 2011 at 4:24 am

Your mom sent you napkin rings for Mother’s Day? Best mom ever! :)

I think it’s awesome that you did this dinner party – just think about how many people you helped!

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat May 9, 2011 at 4:57 am

This looks lovely Andrea! Isn’t it funny how all the good things in life are referred to as ‘she’? Like when guys look at boats, barbeques, or whatever, and go “She’s a beauty!”. Same goes for couscous!! :)

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Evan May 9, 2011 at 6:58 am

Love Near East rice and couscous…my mother always made the pilaf when I was younger alongside her ridiculously good roast chicken.

Your meal looks fantastic! Especially for this time of year. It’s a weekend on a plate. :)

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MelissaNibbles May 9, 2011 at 7:06 am

That looks like a great meal. I love that Near East is doing this. I’ll buy their stuff in the future knowing that they give back in this way. Thanks!

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Manda May 9, 2011 at 7:30 am

Near East’s couscous with pine nuts is one of my most favorite foods in the world! Add some sun dried tomatoes and feta and it’s so freaking delicious.

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Megan (Braise The Roof) May 9, 2011 at 7:55 am

Yum, I haven’t had couscous in way too long. And all I want to do is dine al fresco these days. It was just a little bit too chilly over the weekend or else you better bet I would’ve eaten all my meals outside!

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Riss May 9, 2011 at 8:04 am

Those napkins are just beautiful… the meal doesn’t look so bad either. ;)

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Gina May 9, 2011 at 9:48 am

I love couscous salad!! I can’t wait to start using the grill (and rooftop deck)…it’s long overdue!

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natalie (the sweets life) May 9, 2011 at 10:18 am

I’ve used their mixes before and never been disappointed! Your creation sounds fabulous…and food always tastes better when eaten outdoors!

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Alexa @ Simple Eats May 9, 2011 at 11:10 am

Fluffy couscous is amazing. These linens are gorgeous!

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Rachel @ The Avid Appetite May 9, 2011 at 12:06 pm

I adore this couscous as well. I always keep multiple boxes on hand to add to a quick dinner :) Your meal looks beautiful!

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Megan@Dirty Dishes Daily May 9, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Couscous with a little citrus is the way to go. What a great cause.

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Lu @ A Mix of it All May 9, 2011 at 6:44 pm

Near East is my favorite too. I haven’t tried any of their items as a salad though. This looks amazing.

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Caitlin May 9, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Couscous is one of my favorite foods. So much, in fact, that I wrote an ode to couscous last year. Oh yes I did.

Also, I am glad you are loyal to Heinz ketchup. That makes the Pittsburgh girl in me very, very happy. And it also increases the chances of me proposing within a month 10 times higher

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becky May 9, 2011 at 9:42 pm

i have eaten Near East for a few years. it’s great to see what you did with it. this meal looks incredible!

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Frieda May 10, 2011 at 8:04 am

so going to try this one. just need to find someone that likes couscous :D

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Frieda May 10, 2011 at 8:05 am

so going to try this one. just need to find someone who likes couscous :D

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Rebecca @ How the Cookies Crumble May 10, 2011 at 3:41 pm

This meal looks amazing! I love grilled food and the couscous looks delicious!

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Sarah December 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm

This couscous is fantastic (and so easy!). I love that you used chicken broth instead of water to cook it. It definitely makes the meal heartier.

Thanks for this recipe. So good, so simple, so fast! *Was that a few too many s’s? [;

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Lacey December 28, 2011 at 5:54 am

I made this last night. I was really amazing! My boyfriend said it’s his favorite side dish now. :-)

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