Although I love grilled vegetables, in the past I've hardly been able to tolerate grilled zucchini. By the time it is browned, it is usually overcooked, limp and flavorless. It never seems to add any positive taste or texture to the melange of grilled veggies. But when I prepared this side dish, where the zucchini is quartered, de-seeded, salted and spiced with an interesting mix (cumin, brown sugar, cinnamon(!)), I found a grilled zucchini that really makes me happy. The zucchini are cooked over high heat so they finish fast and don't get a chance to get limp and lifeless. And the spices really make it savory and exotic. Even if you don't prepare the couscous or want spices on your zucchini, I also recommend cooking plain zucchini this way. It is the best way I've found.
I found this method while preparing Warm Couscous with Grilled Zucchini Salad from Fine Cooking 65. To prepare this couscous, you add your deliciously grilled, spiced zukes and some grilled red onion to a plain couscous and finish it with the fresh flavors of cilantro and orange. This makes a bright, flavorful couscous where all the ingredients stand up tall. The spices on the zucchini infuse the plain couscous with flavor too. I love it and think it would compliment just about any grilled meat/poultry/fish. Here we did it with salmon.
Warm Couscous & Grilled Zucchini Salad /Fine Cooking #65.
Serves 4 as a side dish
3 small or 2 med. zucchini (about 1lb)
2 t ground cumin
2 t packed light brown sugar
1/8 t cinnamon
1 large red onion, sliced into 1/3 inch disks and each slice threaded on two thin skewers
¼ c olive oil
7 ½ oz regular unflavored couscous (1 ¼ c) I used Near East brand
¼ c chopped fresh cilantro
1 T. finely grated orange zest
2 T fresh orange juice, or more to taste
Trim ends and slice the zucchini in quarters, lengthwise. Slice off the top ¼ to ½ inch of the soft seed core by running a sharp knife down the length of each quarter. Arrange the zucchini, cut side up, on baking sheet lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with kosher salt and set aside for 10 minutes. Blot the quarters dry with a paper towel.
Heat the grill. In a small bowl, mix together cumin, brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and ¼ t. pepper. In a med. bowl, gently toss the blotted zucchini quarters with 1 T olive oil and spices mix.. Let sit for 10 min. Lay the onion on a try, brush both sides with 1 T oil and sprinkle with a little salt.
Meanwhile, bring 1 ½ c. water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in couscous, 2 T olive oil, and ¾ t salt. Cover, remove from heat, set aside.
Grill the zucchini on a hot fire, cut side down, flipping occasionally, until it browns and softens but doesn’t turn mushy, 6-8 minutes. Return the zucchini to its original bowl and toss to pick up any extra spices. Grill the onions over a med. heat (not directly over the hottest part of the fire) until soft and slightly charred, 8-10 minutes. Coarsely chop the zucchini and onion and stir them into the couscous, along with the cilantro, orange zest and juice. Taste for salt and pepper, add a little more OJ to taste. Serve immediately