1/2 cup canned chickpeas
3/4 cup couscous (plain or whole-wheat)
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries
four green onions, sliced (green part only)
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 tablespoon olive oil

Empty the chickpeas into the strainer, rinse, and let them drain.

Combine couscous, water and salt in the glass dish, cover it with the plate, and microwave for two minutes. Check the couscous — if it's still crunchy, give it another 30 seconds, then remove the dish and let it sit off to the side (with plate still covering it) while you prepare the other ingredients.

While the couscous is resting, combine the chickpeas, onions, cranberries, walnuts and feta in the mixing bowl and pour the olive oil over. Dump the steamed couscous over that and combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Southwestern variation: Cook the couscous as above, but instead add 1/2 cup thawed frozen corn, 1/2 can drained canned black beans, 1/4 cup diced red onion, and cumin-lime vinaigrette: whisk together 2 tablespoons oil with the juice of one lime and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin. Pour dressing over combined couscous and vegetables and stir.

Other things to add to couscous:

almonds
artichoke hearts
diced cucumber
dried apricots
dried cranberries
chopped red onion
diced or sliced hard-boiled egg
grape or cherry tomatoes
olives
diced red pepper
hearts of palm
thawed frozen mango chunks
mozzarella chunks
pineapple
pomegranate seeds
steamed carrots
shredded chicken
shrimp
zucchini

HAPPY HOUR

When drinking is involved, notions of nutrition go out the window — at that point it's all about fun food. Of course you can always make nachos in the microwave, but how about a crisp-on the-outside quesadilla? Or melty, crunchy grilled cheese? For that all you need is — not a frying pan, not a panini press — an iron. The basic technique and equipment, for both quesadilla and grilled cheese, is the same. You'll need a good iron, a steady surface, a roll of aluminum foil and some patience.

Basic quesadilla or grilled cheese

Makes one

Equipment: clothing iron, aluminum foil, chef's knife

2 8-inch flour tortillas or two slices of bread
1 tablespoon oil or softened butter
cheese
other fillings

Tear off a long piece of foil, at least 24 inches long, and put it down on a steady work surface.

Lightly oil or butter one side of one tortilla or slice of bread and place it greasy-side-down just to the right of the middle of the foil. Cover with a thin layer of cheese of your choice. Place other fillings, if desired, on top of the cheese, then sprinkle just a bit more cheese over that. (Really, just a little — it's just to make it all stick together.) Now oil (or butter) the other tortilla (or slice of bread) and place it greasy-side-up on top.

Fold the left side of the foil over the quesadilla or sandwich, like closing a book. Neatly fold over all three open edges twice.

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