Memorial Day is time for picnics, pot lucks and lazy brunches. If you need a salad that travels well, doesn’t wilt in the heat, and tastes delicious cold or at room temperature, try cous cous. If you have never had it, give cous cous a whirl. (If you already know about it, you should add this easy version to your repertoire.) A grain made of wheat durum wheat, cous cous comes from North Africa. Traditionally, it is steamed and served warm with a stew of vegetables and/or meat. This recipe, however, is a cold salad and uses a simpler method to cook the couscous.
Simple Fruit and Vegetable Couscous Salad - 3 large or 6 small servings
- 1 cup water
- ¾ cup dry couscous
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ cup raisins or dried apricots finely chopped
- ¼ cup toasted slivered or sliced almonds
- 2 scallions (green onions), finely chopped
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
- ¼ cup green, red, or yellow pepper chopped small
- 1 ½ -3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper
- optional – ¼ cup of fresh mint and/or ¼ cup parsley finely chopped, small amount (1/4 teaspoon or less) of spices such as cardamom, curry powder, dried coriander, or cumin.
- Small pot with lid
- Large bowl
- Liquid measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- ¾ cup measure for dry ingredients
Preparation Note – The specific ingredients and measurements below (other than water and couscous) are just a guide. Feel free to add other vegetables or substitute vegetables that you prefer. If you would eat a vegetable raw (e.g. cucumber, carrot, celery, scallions or tomato), then can add it raw to the couscous. On the other hand, if you would normally cook the vegetable for at least a few minutes before eating it plain or adding to a salad, you should lightly fry or sauté, steam the vegetable, or blanch it by cooking it for just a few minutes in boiling water, before chopping it into small pieces to add to the couscous. Vegetables that I would cook briefly include broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, and butternut squash.
- Chop the vegetables (carrot, celery, scallions and pepper) and set aside.
- Chop the mint and/or parsley and set aside. I like to use ¼ cup of each.
- Mix the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and set aside. Whether you use 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice or more depends on how tart you like your dressing. They typical salad dressing proportions are 1 part lemon juice to 2 parts oil, but for this recipe, I prefer more lemon juice. For spices, choose the ones you will add, measure out the amount needed and set aside. Combine the spices together in a single small bowl, and then add them to the lemon juice and oil mixture.
- If your raisins or apricots are not juicy, then heat a ½ cup of water, orange or apple juice in the microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute on high, and then soak the fruit in the hot liquid for about 5 minutes. Drain the liquid from the fruit and set the fruit aside. This process will plump up the fruit amazingly – I use it whenever a recipe calls for using dried fruit.
- Toast the almonds by baking them for approximately 5-8 minutes – until golden brown - in a toaster oven set to bake at 350 degrees. (Watch the nuts carefully and occasionally move them so they do not burn.)
- Put the cup of water in a small covered pot and bring it to a rolling boil.
Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, then the ¾ cup couscous and stir it briefly until the couscous is all wet. Cover the pot, remove it from heat and leave the couscous in the covered pot for 5 minutes. When the cous cous is ready, uncover the pot, take a fork and run it across the top of the cous cous, so that the grains separate. As they separate, pour the cous cous into a large bowl.
- Add the vegetables, mint and/or parsley, nuts and dried fruit to the cous cous.
Then add the lemon juice and olive oil dressing and toss it together. You’re done and ready to party.