Grilled zucchini, zaatar and pearl cous cous salad with cherry tomato confit

This salad brims with the mellow fruitfulness of February.
This salad brims with the mellow fruitfulness of February. Photo: William Meppem
Difficulty
Easy
Dietary
Vegetarian

Chargrilled zucchini embodies the nuanced vitality of late summer vegetables, with a sweet, buttery flesh that is light yet robust. Red wine vinegar brings out the best in zucchini, adding brightness and punch to this otherwise unassuming marrow. Gently cooking the cherry tomatoes in olive oil gives you two wonderful results – the tomatoes concentrate in flavour, bursting with umami, while the olive oil becomes aromatic, the perfect finish to any dish.

Ingredients

225g (1½ cups) pearl cous cous

750ml (3 cups) vegetable stock

olive oil, for drizzling

3 medium zucchini (about 700g), cut into 1cm slices

1 tbsp zaatar

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

mint leaves, to serve

Tomato confit

300g cherry tomatoes

2 shallots, peeled and halved lengthways

3 garlic cloves, smashed

3 sprigs of thyme

180ml (¾ cup) olive oil

1 tsp sea salt flakes

Method

1. Preheat oven to 200C (180C fan-forced).

2. Place the pearl cous cous and stock in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the cous cous is tender. Drain, refresh under cold running water and drain again. Drizzle with olive oil and stir to prevent clumps. Set aside to cool.

3. To make the tomato confit, place the tomatoes, shallots, garlic and thyme in a small ovenproof dish – you want everything to fit snugly (I used a 15cm x 20cm Pyrex dish). Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with salt. Stir to coat the tomatoes, then place in the oven and cook for 30-35 minutes. The tomatoes will still be whole, but soft and juicy.

4. Meanwhile, place the zucchini slices in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Season well with salt.

5. Heat a barbecue or chargrill pan until hot. Add the zucchini slices (working in batches if using a chargrill pan) and cook for 4-5 minutes, until charred nicely. Flip the slices over and char the other sides. Remove from the heat and place in a colander to drain any excess liquid for a few minutes. Place the zucchini in a bowl and add the zaatar and red wine vinegar, and season well with salt and pepper.

6. Combine the zucchini with the pearl cous cous, season with sea salt and black pepper, and transfer to a serving plate. Spoon over about half of the tomato confit, reserving the remainder (see note). Scatter with mint leaves and serve at room temperature.

Tip: Cooked zucchini are full of water; always allow to drain slightly before serving.

Note: The remaining tomato confit can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks; make sure that the tomatoes are completely covered with olive oil to prevent air from spoiling them.

Serving suggestion: Charred cauliflower salad with lemony whipped feta and pine nuts.