This is a variation of a salad I had in Israel recently which I found quite satisfying. It is healthy and full of delicious flavors from fresh vegetables and herbs. Although it involves a bit of chopping, it can be made in advance. In fact, I think it is best served cold. It is an excellent side dish for a warm-weather meal of grilled fish or chicken, or can be the centerpiece of a light lunch, accompanied by pita bread and perhaps some cheese or other salads. This reminds me of tabouli, with its tomato, cucumber, parsley, mint, and grain, but it is much lighter in texture and milder in flavor. The addition of olive oil and lemon juice just before serving intensifies the freshness of the salad. If you'd like, you can garnish this with pine nuts or sunflower seeds.
1 cup couscous (8 ounces)
1 cup boiling water
4 + 1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus an extra squeeze
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tomato, diced small (approx. 1/2 cup)
1 small cucumber, diced small (approx. 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon scallion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
Spread the couscous evenly in a bowl large enough to hold all the ingredients. Pour the boiling water over the couscous and cover tightly. Let stand for 5 minutes. In the meantime, whisk together 4 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and a pinch of salt and pepper (you will add more at the end to taste).
Pour 2 tablespoons of the oil mixture over the couscous and toss gently with a fork. Cover again and let sit for another 2 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork (breaking up any lumps), and let cool. At this point you can dice the tomato and cucumber and chop the scallion, parsley, and mint.
Add the remaining oil mixture to the couscous and combine gently with a fork. Add the tomato, cucumber, scallion, parsley, and mint. Toss gently. Cover and chill.
Just before serving, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Toss gently, taste, and add salt and pepper as desired.
Optional garnishes: pine nuts, sesame seeds, a twig of mint, cherry tomatoes cut in half.
This recipe yields 4-6 servings. It can easily be doubled and will last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
Jamie Stolper is the Food Editor of ShalomBoston.com.