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).

Gorgeous (Nearly) All Green Salad – Avocado, Asparagus, Grapefruit and Baby Spinach

The asparagus has been amazing, this year. I see it on a ton of menus, and every time I find it, even in the most “regular” of grocery stores, the spears are thin, tender, and gorgeous. Yay asparagus. For this recipe, I sauté them, very lightly, with some olive oil and lemon, as a means of brightening them and making them stand out against the dressing.

Also, the vinaigrette for this is made with mustard and fresh grapefruit juice. I love this so much, for a variety of salads, but particularly with avocado. Delicious! It is one of the ways that I am using my mother’s Christmas gift to me: a NutriBullet. I poo-pooed this contraption before getting it–because, my heart belongs to the Vitamix that I don’t yet have. But, I’m happy to say that I’ve found a variety of uses for this wonderful contraption–it does a really wonderful job for not only smoothies, but salad dressing, soups, and more. Anyway, enough with my testimony! On to the recipe…


(Nearly) All Green Salad

2015-05-24 14.27.43Prep time: 15 minutes
Serves: as entree, 2 people; as side-dish, 4 people

Salad Ingredients:

  • sauted asparagus
    • 10-15 spears asparagus, cut into 2-inch pieces
    • 1 t olive oil
    • 1/2 lemon
    • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 1/4 fresh red grapefruit
  • 1/2 small Haas avocado
  • 2 T roasted pumpkin seeds

2015-05-24 14.20.14Dressing Ingredients:

  • juice of 1/4 fresh red grapefruit
  • 1 T dijon mustard
  • 1 T cider vinegar
  • 1 T dried herbs (your choice)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 t fresh ground pepper
  • 2 T olive oil

Directions:

  1. Heat, on high, a small sauté pan. When hot, add olive oil.
  2. Add asparagus, and quickly move around the pan to coat with oil. Add salt and pepper and then squeeze lemon over the asparagus.
  3. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until bright green and lemon juice is completely evaporated.
  4. Pull off of the fire and let cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  5. Separate the flesh of 1/4 of a grapefruit (from the “salad” ingredients list) in a large bowl. This is a bit messy, but try to keep the sections into chunks. There will be some juice that settles in the bottom of the bowl. Pour that juice into the blender cup.
  6. Make the dressing by first squeezing the other 1/4 grapefruit directly into the blender or blender cup. Feel free to include some of the grapefruit flesh.
  7. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients to the blender cup and blend until completely emulsified and frothy (will be a light yellow and completely opaque). Set aside.
  8. Put all of the salad ingredients into a salad bowl and drizzle the dressing over it (dress as heavily as you desire–I tend to use only about 1/4 of the dressing, but keep the rest in the fridge for additional salads over the next week.

2015-05-24 14.27.55Serving hint: I like to keep the salad somewhat pristine as I put on the table. Toss the salad before actually loading onto plates. The avocado and the grapefruit will break up and make the salad even more creamy than the dressing, alone.

Raw Beet & Carrot Salad

2015-05-20 19.16.51Oh this salad! This salad is one of the most beautiful salads that can ever exist! It is wonderful in the winter. It is incredibly delicious right. now. I do not peel any of the veggies, in this, and I shred them in my food processor.

The long of the short: it’s shredded raw beet and carrot in a vinaigrette. I suggest marinading these separately, and then putting them together to serve (because the carrot will all become beet colored). The combo color isn’t a bad one, but it is just far more striking if you can clearly delineate which is which.

Also, when grapefruit is in season, I really recommend a grapefruit dressing for this. Today, I used a simple apple cider/balsamic/lemon dressing, which you’ll find below.

Raw Beet & Carrot Salad

Serves: 4-6
Prep-time: 15 minutes + marinading time

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 2 t dried herbs of choice (I used a combo of rosemary, fennel, basil, and oregeno)
  • 1/4 t ground black pepper
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 3 T balsamic vinegar
  • 3 T apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 c olive oil
  • pinch of sugar or dash of agave or maple syrup

Salad Ingredients:

  • 6-8 large carrots, shredded
  • 2 large beets, shredded

Additional Suggestions for Garnish:

  • pepitas
  • roasted pine nuts
  • dollop of hummus

Directions:

  1. Optional step: Grind the dried herbs, pepper, and salt in a mortal and pestle, until herbs are a semi-powder.
  2. Combine the dressing ingredients, and set aside.
  3. 2015-05-20 19.17.39Keep carrots and beets in separate glass bowls (beware of plastic for marinading, always-as the acid may leech some of the plastic-but also because of staining), and pour 1/2 of the dressing on top of each.
  4. If serving within a few hours: toss each and let sit for 1o-15 minutes (minimum). Try to toss every 15 minutes or so, until serving.
  5. If serving later or the next day (this keeps, nicely), toss every now and again (try to toss at least 2 times), and store, covered, in the fridge.
  6. Serving: put in a serving bowl as I show, above (carrot on one side, beet on the other).

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.

Salad Series & “Moretum (The Salad)” by Vergil

It’s getting warmer, and so, naturally, all I can think about is produce!!! I had this amazing fig salad, last night–it just hit the spot. Figs, really a cooler-weather fruit, paired with arugula and with a reduced balsamic vinagrette seemed a perfect compliment to this very moment: trees in Nashville are just starting to bug, although we not yet having shed the vestiges of winter.

So, after yesterday’s inspirational meal, I think I’ll feature salads for the next couple of weeks. Let me guess how you just sighed and rolled your eyes a bit. I mean, seems so boring, right? Nope! If you play your cards right, a salad can be one of the most satisfying things of all–a mix of the 5 tastes with a balance of nutrition: protein, fiber, and water, with a smack of minerals and vitamins.

In the meantime, and as I search my brains for wonderful winter-to-spring transitional salad recipes, please take in Vergi’s poem, “Moretum” or “The Salad”:

The Salad 

ALREADY had the night completed ten
Of winter’s hours, and by his crowing had
The winged sentinel announced the day,
When Symilus the rustic husbandman
Of scanty farm, solicitous about
The coming day’s unpleasant emptiness,
Doth slowly raise the limbs extended on
His pallet low, and doth with anxious hand
Explore the stilly darkness, groping for
The hearth which, being burnt, at length he finds.
I’ th’ burnt-out log a little wood remained,
And ashes hid the glow of embers which
They covered o’er; with lowered face to these
The tilted lamp he places close, and with
A pin the wick in want of moisture out
Doth draw, the feeble flame he rouses up
With frequent puffs of breath. At length, although
With difficulty, having got a light,
He draws away, and shields his light from draughts
With partially encircling hand, and with
A key the doors he opens of the part
Shut off to store his grain, which he surveys.
On th’earth a scanty heap of corn was spread:
From this he for himself doth take as much
As did his measure need to fill it up,
Which ran to close on twice eight pounds in weight
He goes away from here and posts himself
Besides his quern,’ and on a little shelf
Which fixed to it for other uses did
The wall support, he puts his faithful light.
Then from his garment both his arms he frees;
Begirt was he with skin of hairy goat
And with the tail thereof he thoroughly
Doth brush the stones and hopper of the mill.
His hands he then doth summon to the work
And shares it out to each, to serving was
The left directed and the right to th’ toil.
This turns about in tireless circles and
The surface round in rapid motion puts,
And from the rapid thrusting of the stones
The pounded grain is running down. At times
The left relieves its wearied fellow hand,
And interchanges with it turn about.
Thereafter country ditties doth he sing
And solaces his toil with rustic speech,
And meanwhile calls on Scybale to rise.
His solitary housekeeper was she,
Her nationality was African,
And all her figure proves her native land.
Her hair was curly, thick her lips, and dark
Her colour, wide was she across the chest
With hanging breasts, her belly more compressed,
With slender legs and large and spreading foot,
And chaps in lengthy fissures numbed her heels.
He summons her and bids her lay upon
The hearth some logs wherewith to feed the fire,
And boil some chilly water on the flame.
As soon as toil of turning has fulfilled
Its normal end, he with his hand transfers
The copious meal from there into a sieve,
And shakes it. On the grid the refuse stays,
The real corn refined doth sink and by
The holes is filtered. Then immediately
He piles it on a board that’s smooth, and pours
Upon it tepid water, now he brought
Together flour and fluid intermixed,
With hardened hand he turns it o’er and o’er
And having worked the liquid in, the heap
He in the meantime strews with salt, and now
His kneaded work he lifts, and flattens it
With palms of hand to rounded cake, and it
With squares at equal distance pressed doth mark.
From there he takes it to the hearth (ere this
His Scybale had cleaned a fitting place),
And covers it with tiles and heaps the fire
Above. And while Vulcanus, Vesta too,
Perform their parts i’ th’ meantime, Symilus
Is not inactive in the vacant hour,
But other occupation finds himself;
And lest the corn alone may not be found
Acceptable to th’ palate he prepares
Some food which he may add to it. For him
No frame for smoking meat was hung above
The hearth, and backs and sides of bacon cured
With salt were lacking, but a cheese transfixed
By rope of broom through mid-circumference
Was hanging there, an ancient bundle, too,
Of dill together tied. So provident
Our hero makes himself some other wealth.
A garden to the cabin was attached,
Some scanty osiers with the slender rush
And reed perennial defended this;
A scanty space it was, but fertile in
The divers kinds of herbs, and nought to him
Was wanting that a poor man’s use requires;
Sometimes the well-to-do from him so poor
Requested many things. Nor was that work
A model of expense, but one of care:
If ever either rain or festal day
Detained him unemployed within his hut,
If toil of plough by any chance was stopped,
There always was that work of garden plot.
He knew the way to place the various plants,
And out of sight i’ th’ earth to set the seeds,
And how with fitting care to regulate
The neighbouring streams. And here was cabbage, here
Were beets, their foliage extending wide;
And fruitful sorrel, elecampane too
And mallows here were flourishing, and here
Was parsnip,’ leeks indebted to their head
For name, and here as well the poppy cool
And hurtful to the head, and lettuce too,
The pleasing rest at end of noble foods.
[And there the radish sweet doth thrust its points
Well into th’ earth] and there the heavy gourd
Has sunk to earth upon its belly wide.
But this was not the owner’s crop (for who
Than he more straightened is?). The people’s ’twas
And on the stated days a bundle did
He on his shoulder into th’ city bear,
When home he used to come with shoulder light
But pocket heavy, scarcely ever did
He with him bring the city markets’ meat.
The ruddy onion, and a bed of leek
-For cutting, hunger doth for him subdue-,
And cress which screws one’s face with acrid bite,
And endive, and the colewort which recalls
The lagging wish for sexual delights.
On something of the kind reflecting had
He then the garden entered, first when there
With fingers having lightly dug the earth
Away, he garlic roots with fibres thick,
And four of them doth pull; he after that
Desires the parsley’s graceful foliage,
And stiffness-causing rue,’ and, trembling on
Their slender thread, the coriander seeds,
And when he has collected these he comes
And sits him down beside the cheerful fire
And loudly for the mortar asks his wench.
Then singly each o’ th’ garlic heads be strips
From knotty body, and of outer coats
Deprives them, these rejected doth he throw
Away and strews at random on the ground.
The bulb preserved from th’ plant in water doth
He rinse, and throw it into th’ hollow stone.
On these he sprinkles grains of salt, and cheese
Is added, hard from taking up the salt.
Th’ aforesaid herbs he now doth introduce
And with his left hand ‘neath his hairy groin
Supports his garment;’ with his right he first
The reeking garlic with the pestle breaks,
Then everything he equally doth rub
I’ th’ mingled juice. His hand in circles move:
Till by degrees they one by one do lose
Their proper powers, and out of many comes
A single colour, not entirely green
Because the milky fragments this forbid,
Nor showing white as from the milk because
That colour’s altered by so many herbs.
The vapour keen doth oft assail the man’s
Uncovered nostrils, and with face and nose
Retracted doth he curse his early meal;
With back of hand his weeping eyes he oft
Doth wipe, and raging, heaps reviling on
The undeserving smoke. The work advanced:
No longer full of jottings as before,
But steadily the pestle circles smooth
Described. Some drops of olive oil he now
Instils, and pours upon its strength besides
A little of his scanty vinegar,
And mixes once again his handiwork,
And mixed withdraws it: then with fingers twain
Round all the mortar doth he go at last
And into one coherent ball doth bring
The diff’rent portions, that it may the name
And likeness of a finished salad fit.
And Scybale i’ th’ meantime busy too
He lifted out the bread; which, having wiped
His hands, he takes, and having now dispelled,
The fear of hunger, for the day secure,
With pair of leggings Symilus his legs
Encases, and with cap of skin on ‘s head
Beneath the thong-encircled yoke he puts
Th’ obedient bullocks, and upon the fields
He drives, and puts the ploughshare in the ground.

*Poem found on virgil.org. See the link for context for and background on the poem.