Do you have your Fourth of July menu together yet? If you are like me, the answer is no. One thing is for sure, I'll need a cool carb- based salad, something that I know will match up well with meat that will be the star of the menu. My couscous salad has filled that slot on many of my summertime menus. The Meryl Streep of my summer salad lineup, it is extremely versatile. It goes just as well with grilled steak as it does barbecued chicken, marinated lamb, or seafood kebabs. It looks great. It taste great. You can make it ahead of time. In short: Put it on the menu.
Couscous Salad with Saffron Vinaigrette
Makes 8 to 10 servings
Serve with a buffet salad at a picnic with grilled meats (especially lamb), poultry, or seafood.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes, plus 15 minutes cooling time.
Make Ahead: The salad can be made up to 1 day ahead.
Two simple steps make a big difference with this good-looking salad, rendered golden yellow with the saffron vinaigrette. First, take a minute to rub the clumps of couscous through your fingers before adding the vegetables and dressing. And, because the salad changes flavor as it absorbs the dressing, reserve some of the vinaigrette to add just before serving.
2 cups plain couscous
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
One 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
1 large red bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, cut into ¼-inch dice
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
4 scallions (white green parts), finely chopped
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon crumbled saffron (see Note)
1 garlic clove, crushed through a press
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus more for garnish
1. Bring 2¼ cups water, 1 tablespoon oil, and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Cover tightly and let stand until the couscous is tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl. Fluff the couscous with a fork and let cool completely, about 15 minutes. Using your fingertips, rub the couscous to break up any clumps.
2. Add the garbanzo beans, bell pepper, carrots, and scallions to the couscous and mix well.
3. Process the remaining ¾ cup oil, lemon juice, garlic, saffron, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and cayenne together in a blender. Pour about two-thirds of the dressing over the couscous, add the mint, and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
4. Just before serving, toss the salad with the remaining dressing and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with additional mint. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Note: Saffron gives this salad a lot of class. Always costly, the more you buy, the cheaper it is. I try to buy a gram or two at a time to keep the cost down. you don't want to purchase it just for this salad, substitute ground turmeric to give the couscous a bright yellow color. Turmeric is inexpensive at Indian markets, but almost as expensive as saffron when purchased at the supermarket in small jars, so you are better off with the saffron.
If you like this recipe, check out:
Beet, Walnut, and Feta Salad at Kristine Kidd
Warm Green Bean Salad at Sandra's Kitchen Studio
Raw Corn, Basil, and Tomato Salad at A Sweet and Savory Life