Couscous, a pasta made of barley or wheat, is a quick and easy pantry staple that’s a nice alternative to rice or other pastas. Usually pre-cooked, it just needs a quick steam and fluff. Pearled couscous makes for a pretty presentation in this salad, but you can also use plain dried couscous or Alaska barley couscous from the Alaska Flour Co. This make-ahead salad is also easy to transport — think desk lunch or post-workout snack. Feel free to add your favorite vegetables and fruit and nuts. It’s winter, so why not make the most of citrus, pomegranate and dried fruits? Maybe even some roasted squash or pumpkin. A ton of herbs brightens up the whole salad, and a high-quality olive oil is a must. I’ve been loving this blood orange olive oil by Global Gardens to add more citrus flavor. Eat as a main course or as a side with grilled fish or meat or vegetables.
Winter citrus couscous salad
14 to 16 ounces pearl (aka Israeli) couscous (or plain, non-pearl)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 oranges; 1 peeled and cut into segments; the other juiced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 small red onion or 4 green onions, chopped
1 to 2 cups packed chopped fresh herbs such as flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, mint
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2/3 cup golden raisins or currants or chopped and pitted dates
Optional: fresh lemon juice; chopped Marcona almonds, pecans, or walnuts; pomegranate arils
Prepare pearl couscous according to package directions, being careful not to overcook. If using quick-cooking plain, pour couscous into a large bowl and add boiling water to cover couscous by about one inch; cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid and let steam 10 minutes. The water should soak into the couscous. If it seems dry, add a bit more boiling water and let steam another 5 minutes. The couscous should be tender and light and not soggy or dry. Fluff with a fork and proceed with recipe.
If using pearl couscous, drain any excess liquid from the cooked pearl couscous and pat dry with paper or kitchen towels if wet. Add olive oil, orange segments and juice, salt and pepper, onion, herbs, cucumber, dried fruit and toss gently to combine. Top, if desired, with nuts and pomegranate. Taste and add more salt, olive oil, or lemon or orange juice. Serve chilled or at room temperature. If making one day ahead, add nuts and pomegranate just before serving.