It’s been hot here in Southern California. Really hot. Hot, as in the lawn has turned crispy, hot. Hot, as in run the A/C all night long, hot. Hot, as in melt your ipad case in the car, hot. Yep. That last one happened to my husband. He’s lucky the ipad still works.
When the weather is as unrelenting as it has been, I only want to eat cold food, and salads like this one serve double duty. I make one each weekend, usually with some sort of whole grain, rice, or pasta and lots of vegetables mixed in. We eat them first with a piece of easily grilled protein (chicken or fish grilled outside to keep the house cool). Then I’ll serve the rest of the salad later in the week as a quick veggie lunch or with something like leftover chicken tossed in. These Simple Sunday Salads will serve enough for 8-10 as a side dish or feed two for a few days of leftovers. I’ll be featuring more of these salads in the coming weeks.
If you’re not familiar with Israeli couscous (also called Mediterranean or Pearl couscous) it’s slightly different from North African couscous. It’s still a pasta, typically made with semolina flour, but instead of looking like little grains, it’s more the size of small peas. It’s usually toasted before cooking to give it a nutty flavor, similar to the Italian (Sardinian) pea sized pasta called fregola. This salad is inspired by the flavors surrounding the Mediterranean; olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, thyme, mint and preserved lemon. If you’d like to make it vegan, leave out the goat cheese, otherwise leave it in because it adds a nice tangy flavor and a bit of creamy texture to the salad.
Toasted Israeli Couscous Salad with Olives, Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Preserved Lemon
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12 oz Israeli couscous
(about 2 cups dried)
2.5 cups water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 ea shallot, minced (about 1 oz)
1 oz red wine vinegar
3 oz extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1 ea preserved lemon (recipe) (peel only, small diced)
3 oz black oil cured olives, pitted, cut in half
10 oz whole tomatoes, diced 1/2″
5 oz cucumber, peeled and diced 1/2″
3 oz crumbled goat cheese
1/8 oz fresh thyme, chopped
1/8 oz fresh mint, chopped
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the cous cous and toast in the oil for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Carefully add the water (it will spatter), and bring to a low simmer over medium heat. Cook for 8-10 minutes until the pasta is tender and all the water is absorbed. Cool on a sheet pan until room temperature.
To make the dressing whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, and minced shallot. Season with salt a pepper to taste. You can also combine the dressing in a small jar and shake to combine as detailed in this post on making a basic vinaigrette. Mixing it in a jar makes for easy storage too!
Place the cous cous in a large bowl with the diced preserved lemon, pitted olives, diced tomato, and diced cucumber. Combine with about 2 oz of the dressing to start. Reserve the rest of the dressing for a later salad, or to add more later if needed (if the salad sits sometimes it will absorb the dressing). Add in the fresh herbs and gently fold in the crumbled goat cheese. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
This salad would be great served with marinated and grilled chicken, grilled fish, or even grilled lamb or goat skewers.