Meatless Monday Warm Couscous Salad

Israeli Couscous As the seasons change, it is time to lighten up the menus again. This winter had pots of soup and stews on the stove regularly, but now is the season for more salads to make their way...

Israeli Couscous
Israeli Couscous

As the seasons change, it is time to lighten up the menus again. This winter had pots of soup and stews on the stove regularly, but now is the season for more salads to make their way to the table. The dressing on this week’s salad will be a regular in your kitchen. The secret is the apricot jam or preserves that just adds an expected, fresh and sweet flavor to this dressing. This is a make-ahead dressing with a sweeter side.

Couscous in Small Drink Glasses
Couscous in Small Drink Glasses

I have seen this dish served as a Couscous Salad over a salad and as a side dish. It was also served in small drink glasses at a buffet the other day and I intend to steal this idea for my next event. There is something about individual servings that make things seem more special.

Couscous Salad as a Side Dish
Couscous Salad as a Side Dish

As a woman who’s new mantra is "Salad is the Main Course!", I like to serve mine over greens and Arugula is one of my favorite greens and is a fabulous choice for this sweeter dressing. Anyway you serve it, never forget that we eat with our eyes first! Make your salad look like your main dish.

Couscous Served on Arugula
Couscous Served on Arugula

Warm Couscous Salad with Apricot Vinaigrette

Recipe adapted from Scott Lamphere – Small Town Kitchen Table, Atlanta, GA.

Apricot Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup apricot jam/preserves
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 – 5 cloves garlic, fine grate
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ cup olive oil

Directions:

  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the first eight ingredients until smooth.
  2. Then with the blender on low, slowly drizzle the ½ cup of olive oil and combine well.
  3. This dressing is best if allowed to sit at least an hour. I suggest making a day ahead.
  4. Keep this dressing refrigerated.

Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 English cucumber, peel if desired and cubed.  I remove the seeds as well this keeps the salad from becoming too wet.
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup Kalamata or black olives, pitted and diced
  • ½ cup Feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons, fresh mint, chiffonade cut
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons, fresh basil, chiffonade cut
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 1/2 cups Israeli Couscous *** I opt to use Whole Wheat Couscous and the proportions on this variety is one to one, so 2 ½ cups of Couscous would take about 2 ½  - 3 cups cups of stock to finish.  This whole grain version made from 100% natural whole wheat durum provides 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber in a 1/3 cup dry serving size!
  • 8 dried apricots, small dice. This is optional, but a tasty addition.
  • ½ cup almonds, toasted and slivered.
  • Optional: Salad Greens

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast the almonds, prep all veggies, herbs, olives and feta cheese. Combine in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, bring veggie stock to a boil and then add the couscous and dried apricots, removing from the heat and let stand covered for about 10 -12 minutes.
  3. If you are serving warm salad this over a bed of greens, dress the salad greens with about ¼ cup of dressing and place on salad plates.
  4. Add about ½ cup of the vinaigrette to the cooked couscous and fluff with a fork to combine. Fold this with the veggies, herbs, olives and feta cheese and spoon on the salad pates or the serving platter.
  5. Serve immediately.
  6. Provide any added vinaigrette to be served on the side.

Enjoy this Meatless Monday’s Salad! Let the eastern flavours take you away to far and warm places while you wait for spring to approach! This salad will also be great in summer as a side dish during a barbeque (which hopefully will be soon!).