Easy Mediterranean Couscous Summer Salad
This simple weeknight dinner cooks up in a jiff for light summer fare. The star of the show is couscous, which is a tiny circular pasta made from wheat. Couscous is popular in Turkish, Moroccan, and Mediterranean dishes, and packs a good amount of protein (one cup of cooked couscous contains 6-8 grams of protein). Just like other pastas, whole wheat couscous has a higher fiber content than regular (5-6 grams per cup). Israeli couscous, or pearled couscous, is larger than its tiny counterpart Moroccan couscous, and has a chewier texture. Most of the couscous available in the U.S. is pre-steamed, which means it just needs to be added to boiling water and sit for a few minutes before it's ready to serve.
I opted to serve this couscous over a bed of spinach and top with sundried tomato and olive tapenade, feta cheese, and a drizzle of oil and vinegar for a heart healthy and quick meal.
For the couscous:
- 3/4 cup dried Moroccan whole wheat couscous
- 1 1/4 cup vegetable broth (or water)
- 1 cup (4-5 oz.) cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, leaves removed from stems and chopped
- ¼ cup raw pine nuts
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 Tbs. olive oil for frying
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- 4 cups fresh spinach leaves
- Bring water or broth to a boil; add couscous, cover and remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
- Meanwhile, sauté the cherry tomatoes and garlic on low heat in a small skillet, until fragrant and softened (about 2-3 minutes). Add to couscous along with the parsley, salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Using the same skillet as the tomatoes/garlic, toast the pine nuts over medium high heat for 1-2 minutes until golden brown. Be careful not to burn. Add to the couscous and mix well.
- Arrange couscous over a bed of fresh spinach and top with olive tapenade (see recipe below), feta and an extra drizzle of balsamic and olive oil, if desired.
For the sundried tomato and olive tapenade:
• 1 cup pitted olives (I used a medley of black, green, and Kalamata olives)
• 3/4 cup sundried tomatoes in oil (drained off the oil)
• 2 Tbs. reserved oil from the sundried tomatoes
• 2 Tbs. capers (drained)
• 1 Tbs. finely minced fresh basil (about 5-6 leaves)
• 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
• 1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
• 1 tsp. 100% pure maple syrup (note: do not use the “fake” maple syrups, AKA high fructose corn syrup, or this will alter the flavor. The maple syrup cuts some of the brininess).
Directions: Combine all ingredients in a food processor, immersion blender, or regular blender and pulse gently until it forms a thick paste. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.