Savory Israeli Couscous Salad

Many times, couscous has a combination of both salty and sweet. For this particular recipe, I wanted something that erred on the side of savory, and got all of its sweetness from balsamic, red bell pepper, and tomato. As a result, this is a quick, savory, wonderful salad that works as both a side-dish and as an entree.

I did not add additional salt to this recipe (the last ingredient, below). Instead, the dressing stood up with all of the salt in the bullion cube that I used to flavor the couscous. If you are using a no-salt bullion, you may want to add salt, at the end. Always taste the salad before adding salt.

This recipe is homage to two friends and a favorite restaurant: my friend Nikki, who reminded me of grain salad, today, by sharing this incredible Charlie Bird’s Farro Salad recipe (thank you NYT); Donika, who has mastered the sweet-savory couscous salad; and Silly Goose, the wonderful restaurant that I first went to with Donika, to sample its couscous and goose juice. Yay, Nashville-Philly connection!

Savory Israeli Couscous Salad

2015-05-30 15.46.20Prep Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 2 (entree); 4 (side-dish)

Ingredients:

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c Israeli couscous
  • 1/2 vegetable bullion
  • 3 c water
  • 1 medium roma tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 4 pitted olives, sliced (I used garlic-stuffed, but any will do)
  • 1 T balsamic dressing
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • fresh ground pepper and salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Toast the couscous on the stovetop by adding to a hot saucepan, the olive oil and couscous.
  2. Stir and coat the couscous with oil, and continue to toast on medium-high heat, until golden in color (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the bullion and stir.
  4. Then, turn up the heat to high, add the water, cover, and bring the couscous to a boil.
  5. When the couscous boils, uncover and continue to cook for 5-6 minutes. You want your couscous a little on the less-than-al-dente side, because you will not rinse it in cool water (to preserve the flavor that you added with the bullion). Instead, cook it most of the way, and then drain all the excess water.
  6. Spread the couscous in a wide and shallow bowl (to encourage cooling) and add the additional ingredients.
  7. Toss the entire mixture and serve.
  8. This is best at room temperature, but can also stand up to some refrigeration.

Note, if making this ahead of time: If you are going to store it, leave off the balsamic dressing and additional balsamic vinegar, and add when you are serving. Otherwise, the spinach will wilt and the couscous will absorb all of the vinegar and oil (making your salad dry).

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Carrot Lentil Salad

Carrots and LentilsWell, I said that I was going to do a series on salads, and I completely dropped the ball on that. So, now, post-graduation festivities, and as a means of procrastinating on efforts for my upcoming move… salads it is!

I’ll begin with the one I actually made today! I originally posted this in August, of last year. It is one of my favorite go-to recipes, especially when I buy a gang of carrots for something else. This time, I enlisted my step-brother to over-buy carrots for the cold sesame noodles that I made for my graduation get together. Oops, but one that converts into one of the most satisfying salads that I make, regularly.

You can make this way ahead of time and keep it in the fridge, undressed. I added about a 1/2 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar to a single portion, which made this super sweet but still delicious! I also recommend squeezing about 1/2 a lemon or so on it (you may want to serve it with lemon wedges, so folks can decide for themselves). The very earthy worlds of carrot and lentils feel lifted, just a tad, with the acid. During winter, I suggest leaving the acid off, for something far more comforting.

As I said in my original post: All of the flavor comes from the lentils, and the salad is dressed simply, with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Do not dress until you are ready to serve and eat, as the salad will simply absorb the oil and become really dry (I do add the olive oil, salt, and pepper to the bowl I carry to work for lunch–but it is certainly better when it is freshly dressed).

Ingredients:

  • 1 c dry whole red lentils
  • 1/2 c red wine
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 t whole fennel seed
  • 1/2 t whole coriander
  • 1/2 t whole cumin
  • 1/2 t ground black pepper
  • 1 unsalted veggie bullion
  • 3-4 large carrots, grated
  • salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste
  • additional dressing, if desired: 1-1/2 t balsamic vinegar or the juice of one lemon

Directions:

  1. In a mortar, add the cumin and coriander, and crack with a pestle (not a fine grind, but until coriander is in 1/2 pieces or so)
  2. Add to a saucepan: the lentils, wine, water, bay, fennel, coriander, cumin, pepper, and bullion.
  3. Cover and bring the saucepan to a soft boil.  Once boiling, uncover the pan and turn the heat down to medium, and cook lentils until tender but not falling apart (20-30 minutes).
  4. Drain the lentils (if needed), and pull the bay leaf.  Cool lentils to at least room temperature.
  5. Combine the carrots and lentils.  Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste.  Serve.

Carrot Lentil Salad

Carrots and LentilsI’ve been meaning to share this recipe all summer long.  I have kept a large bowl of the base mixture (the carrots and lentils) in my fridge on and off for the last few months, making it easy for me grab it as a quick and simple meal when I’m not feeling like cooking.  It is good as an entree or a side dish.

Now it seems that it will be my go-to for late summer. It packs well and is great cold from the fridge or at room temperature.  It has a subtle sweetness that contrasts with a generous combination of floral and warm spices.

All of the flavor comes from the lentils, and the salad is dressed simply, with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Do not dress until you are ready to serve and eat, as the salad will simply absorb the oil and become really dry (I do add the olive oil, salt, and pepper to the bowl I carry to work for lunch–but it is certainly better when it is freshly dressed).

Ingredients:

  • 1 c dry whole red lentils
  • 1/2 c red wine
  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 t whole fennel seed
  • 1/2 t whole coriander
  • 1/2 t whole cumin
  • 1/2 t ground black pepper
  • 1 unsalted veggie bullion
  • 3-4 large carrots, grated
  • salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste

Directions:

  1. In a mortar, add the cumin and coriander, and crack with a pestel (not a fine grind, but until coriander is in 1/2 pieces)
  2. Add to a saucepan: the lentils, wine, water, bay, fennel, coriander, cumin, pepper, and bullion.
  3. Cover and bring the saucepan to a soft boil.  Once boiling, uncover the pan and turn the heat down to medium, and cook lentils until tender but not falling apart (20-30 minutes).
  4. Drain the lentils (if needed), and pull the bay leaf.  Cool lentils to at least room temperature.
  5. Combine the carrots and lentils.  Add salt, pepper, and olive oil to taste.  Serve.

Marinaded and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Ok… so, everyone loves brussels sprouts now that they are available fresh in bags or on a stalk.  Let me come out right now and say I’m old school sprouts–loved them since I was a kid and I pretended that I was a giant eating an entire head of cabbage at a time!  Fee Fi Fo Fum and the whole 9.

But, I do love them now more than ever.  And I, like everyone else (and those on the kale train) can’t get enough of them.  However, this recipe… this recipe right here?… this is my favorite way of preparing them.  I guarantee it: a delicious balance of sweet and savory and sprouty goodness.  Sweetness comes from roasting the sprouts until they caramelize.

I admit, I really recommend TJ’s dijon mustard for this one.  It is super hot coming out of the jar, but really mellows once roasted.  I also suggest adding a little nutmeg, if it suits you–it isn’t necessary, but is a nice addition.  Also, and always, the fresher your spices, the happier you’ll be.  Also, play with your own spice mixes and let me know how you adjust for your taste!  I’d love some new ideas.  I only suggest that you leave the dried herbs (except maybe rosemary) out of it… I find that fresh herbs are great, but dried don’t really have a nice mouth feel when roasting.  A superfine rosemary powder might be the exception.  But, honestly, fresh will do ya better, every time.  If you do use some fresh herbs, remember to, as with all roasted veggies, reserve some and toss with the final roasted sprouts for a flavor boost.

Image courtesy of James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of James Barker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Marinaded and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Prep Time:  20 minutes
Total Time:  approx. 2 hours

Ingredients:

  • 20-30 brussels sprouts (one stalk or bag – if larger, increase the marinade amounts)
  • 3 T creamy dijon mustard
  • 3 T grapeseed or olive oil
  • 1 t ground paprika
  • 1/2 (or more) t ground cayenne
  • 2 t freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 t sea salt

Directions:

  1. Cut all of the brussels sprouts in half, lengthwise.
  2. Whisk the mustard, oil, and spices in a bowl, until oil and mustard are fully incorporated.
  3. Add sprouts, and fold marinade over the sprouts.
  4. Marinade for at least one hour at room temperature.  If marinading for more than 2 hours, keep in fridge.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  6. On a large, prepared baking sheet (parchment paper or very lightly oiled), place all of the sprouts, cut side down.
  7. Roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the tops show a nice amount of caramelization.  The cut sides should be super golden brown.