Thursday, September 15, 2011

Israeli Couscous Salad

At the FCI, the culinary students were in charge of making family meal for the whole school, so each day around noon we were served a freshly prepared hot lunch (unless it was exam day which meant sandwiches and salads, which I secretly loved). Over the course of six months, there were a few dishes which popped up over and over again. Some were better than others- the roasted beets with caramelized onions changed my life and I finally tried quinoa for the first time. But when we uncovered those serving dishes and saw Israeli couscous piled high, I was first in line with my plate.

Israeli couscous (sometimes called pearl couscous) is actually a type of pasta, shaped in tiny little balls, but you can usually find it with the rice in the grocery store. It's very different than the traditional couscous you may be used to eating, and it's a great blank canvas for adding in different flavors.

You can of course prepare it and eat it warm with just some herbs and maybe a little butter, but here I've cooked and chilled it to turn it into a cold salad. I don't know why, it's just what my brain was telling me to do.

Actually, that's a lie. It's because I had this recipe for vinaigrette that I was dying to make, and rather than put it on something super healthy like salad, I chose carbs. However! You will have vinaigrette left over after making this, which I suggest you store in the fridge and pour over a pretty green salad. That's right, you just made yourself some homemade salad dressing. You're awesome.

Israeli Couscous Salad
Yield: 4 servings

1 cup Israeli/pearl couscous
1 1/4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 squeeze of honey
squeeze of lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped herbs (chives, parsley, dill, thyme, etc.)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, small diced
1/4 cup green bell pepper, small diced
1-2 oz crumbled feta

1. Consult the cooking instructions on your couscous and cook according to instructions, but substitute the chicken stock for cooking liquid. For mine, in a small saucepot, I brought chicken stock to a boil. I added couscous, lowered heat to simmer, and covered. I simmered, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool.
2. Make the dressing. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together mustard, vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and herbs (I used rosemary, chives, and thyme). While whisking, slowly pour in olive oil. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary (You can also do this in a small food processor. Pulse all ingredients together before adding the olive oil through the feed tube with the machine running).
3. Pour about 1/4 cup of dressing over couscous, tossing to combine. Add chopped onion and green pepper. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill, at least 30 minutes.
4. Just before serving, add crumbled feta and taste. Add more dressing if necessary and/or adjust seasonings. Garnish with more fresh herbs. Serve cold or at room temperature.


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