Ok so yesterday when I was telling you about that cantaloupe salad I left a few things out that you could do with it because it was a lot to explain and the post was getting long so….
In other news, adding capers to the cantaloupe salad makes it REALLY good. If you like capers. We fried them! That wasn’t a bad choice, and then running all through the rice you get these crispy salty tangy bites and…YES. My sister is basically the biggest lover of all the capers so I’m super excited to make her eat this ASAP.
The real variation, though, is what to do with the pancetta fat. Remember when we’re prepping the salad we crisp up some pancetta, and as pork products tend to do, the fat renders and is just SITTING IN THE PAN CRYING OUT TO YOU SO….I feel very strongly that you should make this salad, find some protein, cook it in the pancetta fat, and serve it on top of the couscous.
I chose chicken! Fish, pork, tofu….anything you like would work great! I let the pancetta pan cool while I was making the rest of the dish, then turned it back to medium-high heat about 10 minutes before we wanted to eat.
Then, I sprinkled salt and pepper over both sides of the chicken, and tossed ’em in the pancetta drippings pan. If your pancetta doesn’t render a ton of fat (I had a hefty tablespoon), drizzle a teaspoon or so of oil – or add a pat of butter to the pan.
And that is ONE thing you could do to jazz up this salad. Fresh herbs would be great too, or the aforementioned crispy capers, OR. After you cook your protein of choice and nestle it over a bed of the couscous salad YOU COULD DEGLAZE WITH WINE and reduce it and pour reduced wine that tastes like chicken and pancetta over the whole mess!
And then served them over the couscous and chicken. I think it’s a nice touch because then people KNOW that there’s fruit in this thing, so if they’re on of the folks who don’t like fruit in their salty food they can run and get McDonalds and be super insulting to you.
Happy Friday, folks! There are a thousand other ways to make this dish your own, but I HIGHLY suggest using the pancetta drippings left in the pan to your absolute advantage. Updated printable recipe below.
Shared with Weekend Potluck!
- 1/4 cup wild rice, cooked to package directions and cooled
- 1 cup pearl or regular couscous, cooked to package directions and cooled
- 1/4 cup almonds, chopped or slivered, toasted
- 3 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1/2 small bunch kale, washed and leaves thinly sliced
- 2 cups chopped canteloupe
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 thin-cut chicken breasts or other protein source, optional
- Combine the couscous, wild rice, pancetta, kale, and almonds in a large bowl with the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Taste, and season more to your preference.
- Right before serving, stir in the cantaloupe and feta cheese. Enjoy!
- Optional variation: In the pan used to crisp the pancetta, sear the chicken for 2 - 4 minutes on each side until fully cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve over the couscous.
- Timeline: I start the rice and couscous in two separate pots. While that's cooking, I toast the almonds in a large skillet. Then, in the same skillet (almonds removed), I cook the pancetta until crisp and let it drain on paper towels. While the pancetta is draining I use the same pan to cook a protein lightly on each side in the drippings, seasoned with salt and pepper.
- Then, I prep everything else.
- When the rices are cooked and cooled, I combine them with the kale, almonds, olive oil, and pancetta. Right before serving, I add feta and canteloupe, taste for salt, and serve.