Mediterranean Couscous Salad
Let’s just face the cold hard facts. Sometimes it’s way too hot to get in the kitchen and rattle them pots and pans (sorry Bill Haley) over the fire or heaven forbid, turning on the oven. Talk about torture. On those days I just don’t eat. No I’m kidding (mamma, of course I eat). On those days I actually try not to cook. I guess I should say I don’t like to make extravagant meals, slaving away in the kitchen for hours on end, because I actually do cook, they’re just super fast dishes with minimal actual “cooking” involved. Not to mention, who wants to eat a hot meal when it’s deplorably hot outside as well? I don’t folks, I don’t. That’s when these easy and refreshing meals come into the picture. Recipes that cool me down without making me spend too much time in the heat of the kitchen. Recipes that are super easy to put together, and utilize ingredients I already have on hand in the fridge or pantry because the last thing I need is to have to go to the market to buy ingredients for dinner. Is it too much to ask for to have such recipes at my disposal? No, not really. That’s totally reasonable. Yes I just answered my own question and no I’m not ashamed of it. Welcome to the inside of my head ladies and gentleman.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that I’ve put up a healthy recipe on here. High-fives and pats on the back are totally appreciated. I’ll even accept some A-OK’s and thumbs up. I mean I deserve brownie points for such a feat. Cue the flying pigs. Start the freezing over of hell. For the greater part, most of my recipes are rich desserts that are full of butter and sugar and chocolate and you know what, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what breakfasts of champions are made of. I just don’t want you guys to think that’s all I bake and cook and eat so I thought I’d show some variety with this dish, which I happen to make at home all the time. It’s a hit. Just ask my family, they’d tell you, “It’s a hit!” I may or may not have paid them to say that, no big deal. So why not let it be a hit at your house too? You can even take all the credit, go ahead I’m giving you permission. When someone asks you how’d you come up with such a delicious recipe you can say you made it up. “I don’t know how I come up with such things. I surprise myself sometimes. I guess I’m a genius.” Look at that, I’m even telling you what to say. Free of charge. You can pay me by making the recipe and trying it out for yourself. And if you want to invite me over to help you eat it, well I won’t complain.
The hardest part about this recipe, seriously all jokes aside, is boiling water. That’s it. Nothing fancy here folks. If you can boil water and hold a knife then I’m going to say there’s a 99% chance you can most definitely probably make this dish. Easy without a second thought.
As a matter of fact let’s get that difficult step out of the way already. Boil the water.
In a large bowl throw in the couscous. If you don’t know what couscous looks like, here it is:
So what in the world is couscous? According to our good friends over at wikipedia, Couscous is a traditional Arabic dish of semolina (tiny granules of durum wheat) which is cooked by steaming. It is traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew spooned over it. Couscous is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya.
The more you know.
You can make this dish gluten-free by swapping out the couscous for quinoa. It’ll be just as tasty. Cross my heart and kiss my elbow.
To the dry couscous add olive oil, salt and boiling hot water.
**Note: Couscous is generally a one to one ratio. One part couscous to one part liquid. Just make sure the water (or chicken stock for more flavor) completely covers all of the grain.**
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to steam for a few minutes. Forget about it and move on to the next steps.
We’re going to be doing quite a bit of chopping next so get ready.
I’m calling it a “Mediterranean” salad, not because I’m a Middle Eastern expert by any means, but because most of these ingredients are often associated with the Mediterranean region of the world. BAM I’m getting fancy
We begin with vine-ripe tomatoes. Give them a dice. We want the salad to be chunky so keep that in mind when chopping.
Throw the tomatoes into a large bowl, one where we’ll be doing all the mixing, tossing, and stirring, later on.
Next up is cucumber. I like to peel the cucumbers and seed them with a spoon. I don’t care much for cucumber seeds. Tomato seeds are okay, but not cucumber seeds. I’m discriminating, yes. Give it a rough chop similar to the tomatoes.
Artichoke hearts? Sure, why not. I’m just using a can of artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed and dried. A little help from the store never hurts, and especially when it comes to artichoke hearts. It’s such a great big hassle to work with fresh artichoke. Just saying, can I get an amen?
Now for some olives. I prefer black olives, just in general, so that’s what I’m using. BUT if you like the green olives, feel free to use those instead. This should be as stress-free as possible.
One of the last things we’re chopping is a purple onion. I’m only using half of an onion as I think raw onion is very strong and can become too pungent, so half with do. I don’t want it to overpower the dish.
**Tip: Make sure to slice the onion as thin as possible so that no one bites into a large chunk of spicy onion. That wouldn’t be good, unless of course you like that sort of thing.**
DON’T add the onion to the rest of the veggies, I have a trick to cut their bold flavor. Just keep them off to the side and proceed.
So we’ve thrown all of these chopped veggies into a bowl and it is now our responsibility to toss the veggies and mix them all together and evenly as possible.
If there is just one thing you learn from my site—hopefully it’s more than just one thing—I hope that it’s to season as you go. I think the most important tip when cooking is to season every step of the recipe. We have all these veggies and right now they’re as plain as possible. I mean sure they have natural flavors and what not, but really they’re bland. We need to season them with salt and pepper. So go ahead and do that now. Give them a toss.
At this point you can add the couscous toss it all and call it a day. It’d be a dry as heck kind of flavorless day, but a good day nonetheless. I myself don’t want to choke on that dry salad so I think we need to make some sort of vinaigrette to toss in there.
It begins with three crucial dressing ingredients in a small dressing bowl. I don’t know about you but I have a dressing bowl. Okay I don’t. It’s just a regular small glass mixing bowl. Whomp whomp.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
And because two vinegars are better than one, Red Wine Vinegar
We’re going to season our vinaigrette with a few spices and seasonings and herbs. Again, we’re keeping with our Mediterranean theme.
Dried Oregano (oregano is the only herb I prefer dried over fresh)
That’s all I wrote. Pretty simple and uncomplicated right? Give it a really good whisk to incorporate everything together.
**Tip: As with all vinaigrettes, if you make this in advance you’ll find that it will separate. Just give it a shake or whisk before drizzling onto the salad and tossing it.**
Now I promised you a trick on mellowing out those onions, right? Add them to the dressing and give it a stir. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 10 minutes but 1 hour would be best. It will cut that strong onion taste and give the vinaigrette yet another depth of flavor.
Okay, now we can turn our attention to that couscous from earlier. By now it is more than ready, but don’t worry it’ll be fine. Grab a fork and fluff up the couscous.
Throw the couscous on top of those veggies and give it all a good stir to evenly incorporate everything together.
Once you are ready to serve and eat, you can add the dressing (as much or as little as you’d like, depending on your taste) to the bowl and mix it.
I happen to be a big fan of vinegar, really just dressing in general, so I added all of it. It might seem like a lot but also keep in mind that the longer it stays in the fridge just sitting, the couscous will absorb the vinaigrette and it will get even more delicious. This is incredible the next day, just saying.
We’re almost done, you can dig in in just a minute. We need to add the finishing touches. The last gems of the dish. I wait until I’m ready to serve to add these ingredients, just because I like to make sure they’re fresh.
We need feta cheese because I think every dish needs cheese and feta cheese is the perfect thing for this salad because it’s definitely Mediterranean. You can buy the already crumbled feta and add as much as you’d like. Or you can buy a big block of feta and crumble it yourself. That would be good because you get to control the size of the chunks.
My store (most Trader Joe’s really) have this crumbled feta with Mediterranean seasonings. It has stuff like oregano and sun dried tomatoes. It’s delicious really.
We also need some parsley. Just because, not really for flavor, per say, but for visual purposes. Also because I feel like most salads need that last step of freshness, no?
Hey, guess what! We’re done. Officially finished. Let’s grab a fork and dig in. Just start eating. What? We need to be proper? I guess that’s probably better. Let’s grab some plates and serve ourselves some. We wont be cave people today.
Now I’m no health nut so I by no means at all, am suggesting this to be an entire meal. Although if you’re into that sort of stuff then, of course it would be a great meal. I’m all about a balanced meal so I would suggest making this as a side dish for a bigger entrée. This would be the perfect pairing for a grilled piece of fish or marinated chicken. Serve it alongside some hummus and pita bread and invite me over for dinner. I’d be in heaven. Seriously, invite me. I’ll bring wine or dessert or wine.
But if it’s hot and you don’t want to grill because like we said earlier grilling would be too hot, then you probably don’t want to serve it alongside fish or chicken. So, this would also be good with a sandwich of some sort. That would solve the no cooking problem. You’d just have to assemble a sandwich without breaking a sweat. Oh, oh, oh it would be amazing with a wrap. Like a veggie wrap with lavash or a large pita bread with hummus. Basically anything with hummus is golden. Hummus rocks.
The best part of this dish, aside from all the yummy things inside, is the fact that you can serve it at room temperature or cold right out of the fridge. You don’t have to worry about warming it up. I happen to love it cold right out of the fridge, it’s the best that way. No fuss, no muss. Just give me the bowl and a fork and step to the aside.
I’m posting this recipe on the Fourth of July because I happen to think it’s the perfect July 4th dish. Sure it’s not American. Nothing traditional about it here in the US of A. But it makes for a great companion to any grilled feast. You can make this salad and take it to that Independence Day party you were invited to. What makes it so appealing to make? It travels incredibly well. You don’t have to worry about keeping it cold or warming it up. It’s best served at room temperature. Pot luck dish? I think so, I think so. Everyone will love you for it, and what could be better than stealing the attention of the hosts? Nothing that’s for sure. I’m totally kidding. That’s rude. You won’t get invited over anymore if that happens, but you’ll secretly know it’s because they’re jealous of your ridiculously tasty salad. Be content with that piece of information and never forget it.
Mediterranean Couscous Salad
The perfect vegetarian side dish—or main course meal served with hummus and pita bread—loaded with fresh vegetables and tossed with a simple vinaigrette. Embrace summer with this easy recipe that will leave you satisfied without the guilt. Make it for your next BBQ or potluck gathering, people won’t be able to resist. Did I do a good job convincing you? I tried my best car salesman tactics, just so you know. If you’d like to make this dish gluten-free you can do so by swapping out the couscous for quinoa.
yield: 6 to 8 side dish servings
- 1 cup (230 grams) couscous
- 1 cup (250ml) boiling water
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
- 2 vine-ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 (14 ounce) can (400 grams) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- 1 (6 ounce, drained) can (170 grams) black olives, drained and chopped
- half a red onion, thinly sliced
- salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
- 1 teaspoon (6 grams) black pepper
- ½ teaspoon (3 grams) garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon (3 grams) dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon (3 grams) fresh thyme, minced
- ½ cup (75 grams) crumbled feta
- fresh parsley, chopped
1. In a large bowl combine the couscous, olive oil, salt, and boiling water. Stir and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl stir together the chopped tomatoes, cucumber, artichoke, and black olives. Toss lightly with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Just eyeball a dash and a pinch. Set the veggies to the side.
3. In a small bowl make the vinaigrette by whisking together the extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried oregano and thyme. Add the sliced red onion to the dressing, toss, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for at least 10 minutes.
4. Uncover the couscous and fluff with the fork. Couscous cooks really fast so by the time you cut the veggies and make the vinaigrette it should be done. Once the couscous is fluffed, add it to the vegetables and toss it all together to evenly combine. When ready to serve and eat, toss the salad with the vinaigrette and onions. Add the crumbled feta and chopped parsley. Stir once more and serve right away. You can make the salad in advance and just cover it with plastic wrap or store it in an airtight container and place in the fridge. Will keep for up to 4 days. Enjoy!