One of the best things about working from home is how much choice you have at lunchtime. No soggy sandwiches or greasy takeaway. I often just zap some homemade soup in the microwave, but if I have more time and energy, nothing beats a salad or sandwich.
Okay, it's not very traditional, but since I was leaving out the eggs & tuna anyway, I thought I'd play around with the classic Nicoise Salad & make it more of a hearty, substantial winter salad. I don't eat as many salads in cold weather as I do in summer, which is silly, because I love salad. Sorry this isn't a proper recipe with quantities, but I was winging it. I'm sure it would be easy to reproduce, & it's well worth it, because it is delicious. Don't expect to be hungry for at least a week afterwards - this is one big salad, most definitely a meal in itself.
There are quite a few different components, but none of them are difficult or terribly time-consuming. The good thing is, you can make extra couscous, dressing, macadamia crust, etc. & have it again the next day!
I started off with a bed of couscous, mixed with roasted garlic, chopped parsley & little chunks of roasted japanese pumpkin (butternut pumpkin/squash would be just as nice). Then I topped it with the salad, tossed in a traditional Nicoise dressing. On top of that are slices of macadamia crusted tofu (in place of the tuna), & then, in the absence of softly boiled eggs, I drizzled the whole thing in the yolky sauce I made for my vegan poached egg recipe. If you're not a vegan or vegetarian, I think you could substitute the tofu for some kind of fish baked with the crumbed topping & it would turn out quite nicely.
The vegetables: First I boiled some new potatoes in salted water until tender, very lightly steamed some green beans (still crunchy), & roasted the chopped pumpkin for the couscous (in a moderate oven) that I had drizzled with some extra virgin olive oil, sea salt & a little dark agave syrup. Then I left the cooked vegetables to cool while I prepared the raw salad ingredients - chopped tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, some roughly torn cos lettuce, & some chopped parsley. Although not the traditional type of olive normally used in a Nicoise Salad, I included some pitted & halved kalamata olives (that's what I had in the fridge). If I'd had some artichoke hearts, they most definitely would have gone in too.
The dressing: I roasted a bulb of garlic at the same time as the pumpkin & mixed four cloves into my salad dressing, which was a blend of extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, sea salt, ground black pepper, & to give it a little sweetness, I drizzled in some Sweet Freedom Syrup (light agave or a little sugar would work too), then a dash of boiling water. Then I shook it all up in a screw top jar.
The couscous: I prepared is as it says on the pack - one cup of couscous, one cup of boiling vegetable stock (I just made it up using stock powder), & added four cloves of roasted garlic & a few strands of saffron (roughly crumbled). I stirred though a little olive oil, a blob of margarine, & some chopped parsley, before adding the roasted pumpkin & fluffing it with a fork.
The crust: I processed some parsley, a clove of garlic, a little grated lemon zest, a handful of roasted macadamias, a small chunk of Turkish bread (any type of bread will do, preferably one with lots of body like a wood oven bread), a drizzle of olive oil, squeeze of lemon juice, sea salt & ground black pepper.
The tofu: Recently I read a fantastic method to make crispy tofu, & I can't recall where, otherwise I'd link you to it. It's so simple...you just slice your tofu & steep it in freshly boiled, salted water for a minute or two. Then pat it dry & pan fry it in a little oil - it goes super crispy.
Anyway, that's what I did with my tofu here, but only pan fried it on one side (the bottom), leaving the top, where the crust goes, nice & soft. I seasoned it with a little salt & pepper then pressed the macadamia crust mixture on top, making sure it was well covered, then baked it in a moderate oven for about 15 minutes, until the crust was, well, crusty. It's good to let the tofu rest for about 10 minutes once you take it out of the oven, so it's not super hot when you assemble your salad.
Assembly: Firstly, I spooned a bed of couscous on to the plate, but not too much as it shouldn't dominate. I like a contrast in temperature of the different components, so made sure my couscous was warm, but it would be perfectly fine at room temperature. Then I tossed the salad in some of the dressing & piled it on top of the couscous. On top of that, I put a couple of slices of the macadamia crusted tofu, then drizzled the whole thing in a little of the yolky sauce (warm, but not too hot - recipe here).
PS. If you would like to share this recipe on Pinterest, you might prefer to repin the version I pinned here.