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Desperation Dinners: Israeli Couscous Salad

Israeli Couscous Salad

It’s time for another Desperation Dinner idea—simple delicious dinner ideas that help you avoid desperate runs for bad takeout.  Today I’m sharing my recipe for Israeli Couscous Salad.  This meal is one of my family’s favorites.  It never gets old, because there are infinite possibilities for what you can put in it. Israeli couscous, sometimes called pearl couscous, is much larger than regular couscous, and is made from semolina and wheat flour.  The little pearls have a wonderful mild and slightly nutty flavor, and are nice and creamy without becoming soggy when paired with a sauce.

kids love Israeli couscous

Last night I made a simple version of my salad, because my girls were sick.  Even “dressed down,” this salad is a winner with my kids!  My oldest knows exactly what I’m making when I pull out the bag of Israeli couscous, and we are heralded with cries of “Couscous! Couscous! Couscous!” for the next 20 minutes until I can finish the salad and get it on the table.  Last night  I seasoned the couscous with some herbs, and added grape tomatoes, crumbled Feta cheese, and some freshly squeeze lemon juice to add a bit of citrusy zing to the salad.  You can add whatever you love or have in your fridge or pantry.  This salad is a great vehicle for “cleaning out the fridge”—using up the last few olives in the olive jar, the lone carrot in the crisper, or the last few tablespoons of salad dressing in that bottle that you would love to throw away.

quick and healthy Israeli couscous salad

Israeli Couscous Salad

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Recipe Notes: The salad can be made up to 24 hours in advance and chilled.  This is a basic recipe that can be customized based on what you have on hand.  If you don’t have lemons, you can substitute orange juice or grapefruit juice.  Vegetable or chicken stock can be substituted for the water.  Other delicious additions are chickpeas, leftover rotisserie chicken, chopped cucumbers, roasted red bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, olives, lemon zest, or toasted nuts.

2 1/2 cups water
2 cups Israeli couscous
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves
1 tablespoon dried chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
4 ounces crumbled reduced fat Feta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1. Bring the water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the couscous, butter, basil, onion, and salt. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the couscous starts to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, reduce the heat.

2. When the couscous is tender, remove from the heat, and pour the couscous into a serving bowl. Let the couscous cool for about 5 minutes, then stir in the crushed red pepper, tomatoes, feta cheese, and lemon juice. Serve, or chill until ready to serve.

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