Sunday, September 6, 2015

Crowd-Pleasing Couscous Salad

Yes, it's another salad, this time one that I've been making for ages: a tried and true, fail-safe contribution for potlucks, cookouts, and family occasions (as pictured below), with the signal virtue of being endlessly forgiving. You can use almost any vegetables you have on hand, although obviously, one should draw the line thing at something like turnips. You can substitute quinoa instead for couscous to make it gluten-free. You can use more or less or entirely different seasonings. You can let your imagination run free! But do be aware that this recipe makes a ginormous, bacchanal-size quantity, so go ahead and half, third, or quarter it if you like. That said, it gets better as it sits, and leftovers are well worth having in the fridge in warm weather, when we all have more diverting things to do than cook.
Crowd-Pleasing Couscous Salad
~ 3 cups cooked couscous, prepared according to package directions
~ 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (I can't tolerate raw onions so I cook them briefly first)
~ 1 red bell pepper, diced
~ 1 large carrot, chopped
~ 2 small or 1 large cucumber, diced
~ 1 small zucchini, diced
~ 1.5 cups each: quartered grape tomatoes, chopped Kalamata olives
~ 1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
~ A few grinds of black pepper
~ Juice of 2 lemons (about 1/3 cup)
~ 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
~ 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. dried mint
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram
~ ½ tsp. each: thyme, oregano
~ 1 cup each: chopped, fresh dill and parsley
~ 1 cup chopped, toasted walnuts or pine nuts
~ 1-2 cups tofu feta (optional; adjust quantity to taste)

~ Prepare the couscous according to package directions, fluff with a fork, and set aside to cool to room temperature.
~ In a large bowl, combine all the fresh vegetables.
~ Add the chickpeas, fresh herbs, and dried spices; stir well.
~ In a bowl or beaker, mix the lemon juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, and dried seasonings.
~ Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture, add the fresh herbs, and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate at least a few hours to let the flavors blend. (Overnight is even better; I usually make this salad a day ahead.)
~ When ready to serve, stir in the toasted nuts and tofu feta (if using).
~ Mix thoroughly and serve cold or at room temperature, alone or with leafy salad greens.

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