gluten-free option, great leftovers, Israeli couscous, potluck dishes, summer salads, vegetarian, whole foods
I’m pretty adventurous when preparing food only I will be eating. When my palate is the only one on the line, I’m willing to wing a dish, try some questionable ingredients, risk lack of flavor (or too much flavor–hello, chipotle!). But when it comes to taking dishes outside the home for friend and family consumption, I desire a relatively sure thing.
I found that sure thing in this Israeli Couscous & Apple Salad, originally published in Country Living magazine. It’s crunchy, sweet, herbaceous—dare I say comfort food?—easy to prepare from fresh, inexpensive ingredients. And, perhaps best of all, I can devour any leftovers for lunch or dinner with nary a pang of guilt! (I can’t say the same for the Strawberry Trifle I made for a recent cookout.)
The original recipe calls for the addition of 2 tablespoons minced shallot and 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, which you are welcome to add. I removed the former because of my avoidance of all things oniony. And I use walnuts instead of pine nuts because they’re cheaper and always in my freezer.
The original recipe also instructs you to make the dressing in blender or food processor, but neither of my devices work that well on herbs or liquids. I’ve found that mixing the lemon juice and olive oil with the finely chopped herbs together before adding to the salad does the trick.
A note for gluten-free folks: Israeli couscous is pasta, and therefore not gluten free, but I have made a version of this recipe with leftover brown rice, and it was delicious! Seriously, it’s that much of a sure thing.
Israeli Couscous & Apple Salad
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup Israeli (or pearl) couscous (I use Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pearl couscous)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large Gala or Fuji apple, cored and diced
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and diced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
Freshly ground pepper
In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add couscous, mixing occasionally so all the pearls get covered in oil and brown evenly, about 2-3 minutes. Add 2 cups water and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook couscous until tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and rinse.
In a large bowl, toss together apples and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Mix in the well-drained couscous (and shallots, if you’re using). Add crumbled feta cheese and nuts.
In a small bowl, whisk together remaining olive oil and lemon juice with finely chopped mint and oregano. Add fresh ground pepper to taste. Drizzle dressing over salad and mix well (but not vigorously) to blend the flavors, which develop even more after a few hours in the refrigerator.