Okay so first off, if you’re saying to yourself, “I had that before–it SUCKED!” you’re not alone. In fact, most people I’ve fed this to have tasted it with the caveat, “Okay, I’ll try it…but I HATE couscous salad…” and then they faint dead away in ecstasy. Okay, I exaggerate. But not by much!
Here’s some things you need to know about couscous.
- It is NOT a grain
- it IS a type of pasta, made from semolina
- there are several different types, and yes, it’s even possible to make it yourself from scratch
- it has a medium rating on the Glycemic Index which means it’s a relatively good (good for eating yourself slim of course) complex carb, especially in reasonable quantities, such as you find in this salad 🙂
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Couscous (I use the kind that comes in a box–plain, I add my own flavor, thank you very much)
- One large cucumber, quartered and cubed (peel on or off, up to you. I peel mine.)
- About 10 grape or cherry tomatoes (optional), sliced in halves
- One each red, yellow and orange bell pepper, chopped–I usually use about 3/4 of each and save the rest for other good stuff 😀
- Two or three spring onions, sliced thin
- Three or four garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
- Fresh basil (another chance to try your chiffonade technique!), about three large leaves
- Salad olives, roughly chopped
- Rice vinegar
- The juice of one lime
- Salt (that’s right, I prefer kosher)
- Pepper (freshly ground)
- Chicken stock (optional)
- A smidge (slightly less than a drizzle) of olive oil
NOTE: Where people usually go ‘wrong’ with couscous salad is adding too much liquid when they cook the couscous. Cut back at least 1/4 cup of what the box recipe calls for, or your couscous will be mushy and, frankly, nobody likes mushy couscous do they, now? NO! So watch it.
What you need to do:
Prepare your couscous according to the directions on the box. It’s pretty simple, just bring your liquid to boil in a medium saucepan, add in the couscous, then cover and remove from the heat and let it sit for five minutes, then fluff it with a fork. You can use chicken stock instead of water if you like, but if you want to stay strictly vegetarian, go with water, it’s fine, really. Would I lie to you about FOOD?
Once your couscous is prepared, fluffed and so on, put it in the fridge (covered) and let it cool down. I leave mine overnight usually. Unless I forget. But I’m old, these things happen. So anyway, let it cool. And the next day…
Prepare your vegetables, remove your couscous from the fridge, and place it in a nice big bowl and fluff it up again. Add in your veggies, the herbs, garlic…and toss GENTLY. You want your vegetables intact, not falling apart or bruised, yes? Add in a tad of olive oil–seriously, I’m talking a small drizzle here, just enough to give your salad a bit of ‘shine.’ Add in rice vinegar to taste…so go slowly. Don’t be shy about adding the juice of the lime; it’s the vinegar you need to go easy with. Add in your salt slowly also, 1/4 teaspoon at a time, and grind some fresh pepper into your salad. Toss (gently, gently), taste, season…toss, taste, season…and when it tastes good to you, you’re done! Almost.
Now, because the couscous will absorb a bit of the vinegar and lime juice, you want to wait a bit, let it absorb, then taste again. You may need to re-season with more vinegar, more salt…just go slowly. Remember the eternal caveat: You can ALWAYS put more in, but you can never take it out.
This dish has some heat to it from the garlic and the onion, so you may need to tailor these elements also. Once you’ve gotten the taste that you like, refrigerate, (covered–do I really need to tell you that?), let it all marry together, and enjoy! Trust me, you’re gonna LOVE this stuff. You get your pasta fix (you can even pretend it’s a grain if it makes you feel better, lots of people do), and you get veggies in a nice bright dressing that has practically ZERO calories.
Win-win people, win-win! It’s great to take to parties, pot lucks, you know. The kind of functions where you want to bring something cool, yet easy to make, yet not fattening, yet tastes good…Lay it on your carb-addicted buddies and watch their eyes glaze over. It’s fun!
Give it a try, let me know how you like it!
Bon apetit! 🙂