2 Sides Make a Night (Tomato Couscous with Black Beans)

The saying goes, there are two sides to every story. I warrant that’s not always true, as I have seen some very octagonal tales in my day, but that is neither here nor there (the dork in me begs to ask, Where, then? but I shall refrain). Nevertheless, one recent evening I channeled that phrase into my taste-searching fingers, and approached my cupboards with dual palettes in mind. A few weeks ago, the husband and I took an excursion to North Wildwood, New Jersey (Cape May vicinity, for those familiar) and one afternoon our health-starved mouths craved for something that wasn’t nitrate ridden (like hot dogs) or fried (everything else!) so we hit up the local grocery store and bought some tomato salad couscous. Oh the praises my little taste buds bestowed upon me for that tasty treat! And the husband discovered he had a strong liking for the rice-disguised pasta. Most likely because it looks like a rice grain. So easy to please, he is.

Since then, he spoke often about us creating our own dish inspired by that; so often that mere week or so later, I decided to make it with him during this recent battle with the CH beast. But obviously it needed a companion—this stalwart dish could not trudge into the dark recesses of our bellies without a legion to conquer that grumbling realm. Furthermore, to me it just felt like a side, a lovely accompaniment to something greater, the Sancho Panza to some elusive Don Quixote of foodstuff. But… I didn’t really have the time nor the groceries for something greater, but I did have a hearty supply of black beans at my disposal. And so the great Two-Sided Tale of our dinner was born.

Our story is headed by the great desire of the husband, a spicy, tangy and cool couscous laden with ethereal flavors. But it is closely tailed by bright, raucous beans that nearly pop with mariachi tunes and zip through your senses like Speedy Gonzalez. Combined, one reaches a sublime medium. *insert sigh of pleasure here*

Ingredients

Couscous:

  • 1 box original couscous (plain)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (maybe a bit more)
  • 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • Lime
  • Salt
  • Handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • Red pepper

Beans:

  • 1 can black beans, drained and washed thoroughly
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • Cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp red pepper

I wouldn’t really call this cooking, I call this Eeeeeeaaasy! (fyi: must be sung in a high operatic voice). As far as couscous is concerned, basically cook it as directed (again, cook? Really? “Add dry couscous to boiling water, remove from heat, cover, voila?” Not cooking in my haphazard melee of a kitchen). After it’s ready, let it cool down a bit, and just add all the other ingredients. I squeezed pretty much an entire lime and then some, but you make it as tangy as you like. Same goes for the salt and red chili pepper. 1 tsp is a good start, and then add as you see fit.

Best bet is to let it sit in the fridge to let the various flavors merrily marry. This is especially awesome once paired with the hot sizzly inky legume we got going on the other side of the spectrum.

As for the beans, again simple is as simple does. In a pot, add a few tbsp of olive oil and sauté the onions and peppers until wilted and aromatic. Add the garlic and cumin seeds, let them roast up a bit, and then stir in the beans. Reduce heat to low and let the beans cook in the veggies to absorb some awesome flavor, and then add the salt and red pepper to your liking. I honestly… just… what can I say? That’s it. If you can’t achieve bliss through this, then I pity then ill-fated sensibilities of your unfathomably challenged cooking skills. Seriously, it only takes a few minutes and once you’re done you have to fabulous sides that offer both cool piquant vibes and zippy fresh zest. I am drawn to the adjectives today, I feel.Anyway, match these suckers up and you will be singing… hopefully not mariachi tunes though. You’ll need the whole band for that.

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