By Kate Ganiron | BallardNewsTribune.com
Starting today, a new food truck will be roaming the streets of Seattle but put your wallet away because this isn’t your ordinary food truck. The Couscous Caravan will be launching its new campaign promoting Near East couscous with free samples of couscous in different parts of Seattle.
Five of the couscous recipes on rotation were created by Chef Jason Wilson of Crush Restaurant and he based his recipes on different areas of Seattle including Ballard.
“It was a unique and fun challenge for me because I get to somehow interpret different recipes for areas and regions of Seattle,” said Wilson, who will also be featuring couscous recipes at Crush. “Ballard was easy. That’s where the boats from St. Jude’s come in, so we use albacore at the restaurant, we use albacore at my house, and for different consulting I’ve done as well.”
The Ballard-inspired recipe is the Pacific Albacore Tuna couscous (see below). Chef Wilson said that his inspiration for the dish came from the fact that Ballard is home to Seattle’s fishermen but also from Ballard’s greenery.
“It’s really about the attractive areas as well. Playing to the fact of the green places and the green wood areas, but also the fact that there are lots of orchards, lots of trees,” he said.
With the growing popularity of the food truck trend, The Couscous Caravan sought a different mission.
“It hasn’t been used as much of a sampling vehicle to go out and give people free samples,” said EG Fishburne, brand manager for Near East. “At most of the trucks people buy the food. So we thought it would just be great to have our own food truck where we’re giving free samples to people so they can taste the couscous.”
The Couscous Caravan is also a gateway for people who haven’t had or are hesitant to try couscous to become introduced and familiar with the dish.
“For the most part people are very open to trying couscous. People just smile when they say the word couscous. It’s just a happy word. It makes them smile and they want to try it. People weren’t familiar with couscous. Forming that with the whole food truck trend just seemed like a perfect marriage using the food truck as a way to bring couscous to people,” said Fishburne.
“It’s really for Seattleites to enjoy and expose themselves to new ways of playing with the ingredients,” added Wilson, who has been a chef for 20 years. “It’s approachable and it’s understandable. People should give it a try and enjoy it.”
The Couscous Caravan will start off in one location a day, usually retail and key pedestrian areas throughout the city. It will run during lunch hours, from about 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. The Caravan will also make appearances at the Taste of Washington and Puyallup Fair.
Chef Wilson will be making appearances at the festivals to speak about Near East and couscous.
For every tweet that mentions @NearEastDish with the hashtag “#CouscousCaravan” Near East will donate a box of couscous to the Northwest Harvest to help fight hunger in Washington.
the Ballard-inspired recipe:
PACIFIC ALBACORE TUNA, OLIVES, ALMONDS & MINT CUCUCUMBER COUSCOUS
1 box NEAR EAST® Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous
½ cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
1 tsp. lemon zest
3 tbs. Kosher salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
6 fresh Pacific albacore tuna steaks* (boneless, skin off), 4 – 5 oz. each
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chopped parsley
1½ cups vegetable broth
3 tbs. rough chopped green olives (Cerignola, Arbequina, or Picholine)
2 tbs. lemon juice
¼ cup roasted almonds (chopped rough)
½ cup peeled and small diced English cucumber
*A good alternate to albacore tuna steaks is fresh halibut filets (boneless, skin off)
In a blender, puree the mint, lemon zest and 1 tbs. Kosher salt with 3 tbs. of the olive oil until smooth. Reserve refrigerated.
Marinate the albacore with 1 tbs. Kosher salt, the black pepper, paprika and chopped parsley by tossing all ingredients in a bowl and coating well.
Simmer the vegetable broth in a large fry pan and add the Near East® Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil Couscous, contents of Spice Sack, olives, lemon juice and remaining 1 tbs. Kosher salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow 5-6 minutes for the couscous to bloom.
Toss couscous with mint puree, almonds and cucumbers.
In a large fry pan on medium high heat, sear all sides of the albacore until fish is cooked medium rare (roughly 5 minutes)**, remove from heat and slice in desired portions (3 slices per person) before serving with couscous.
** If cooking halibut, sear all sides until the fish is cooked through (roughly 8 minutes).