My friends know that I don’t care for pasta salad. I grew up understanding that pasta should be served hot, and I assimilated that lesson. Yes, there were neighbors who made good old macaroni salad, and expected us to eat it at a picnic. We were polite, but generally took just a little and stirred it around on our plate.
But couscous, which I didn’t discover until I was in my twenties, is a different story. It is indeed pasta and it’s great hot, with lamb stew, but also delicious cold in this summer salad. Couscous is such a tiny pasta, that it absorbs whatever flavors are added and has more of a rice consistency than other pasta.
This recipe will keep you in the kitchen for at least an hour—but it’s so worth it. And yes, please serve it chilled.
Summer Couscous Salad
For the salad:
- 1 ½ cup couscous
- 1 ¼ cup boiling water
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 1 cup diced red pepper
- 1 cup sliced green beans (I like to slice on the diagonal, for a morebeautiful presentation)
- 1/3 cup currants
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/3 cup toasted slivered almonds
For the dressing:
- ½ cup olive oil
- Juice of one lemon
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- Handful of chopped
- fresh parsley
- 10 fresh mint leaves, chopped
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
Put couscous and salt in the salad bowl and stir in the boiling water. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork.
Whisk the dressing ingredients in a separate bowl and then add to the cooked, but still warm couscous.
Steam these vegetables separately, because they will cook at different rates and you want each cooked perfectly. This is the time-consuming part of the preparation.
Steam the carrots till just tender; add to the finished couscous.
Steam the red pepper till just tender; add to the couscous.
Steam the green beans until just tender: add to the couscous.
Add the currants, onion and almonds. Stir.
Refrigerate the salad for at least an hour. Serve chilled.