Israeli Couscous and Apple Salad

Johnny and I went to the Berkshires last weekend to celebrate our first wedding anniversary and we had an amazing time. Of course, I had to hit up Taft Farms before we left and I was in heaven among all of the seasonal bounty: butternut squash, eggplant, Indian corn and some of the best heirloom tomatoes I’ve tasted all summer.

There were also plenty of apples (and warm apple cider doughnuts, which we happily indulged in) which got me thinking about this couscous salad I saw in the September issue of Country Living. New York State is particularly well known for its apples, so when I was at the Greenmarket yesterday, I picked up a Gala apple and a Honeycrisp. The recipe called for a Granny Smith, but those aren’t in season quite yet.

We both really liked this salad, but I do have a few notes. First, it calls for Israeli couscous, which, I learned yesterday, is also called “toasted” couscous. It’s larger than regular couscous and has a pasta-like consistency. I bought a whole wheat version because it had much more fiber per serving. I also used walnuts instead of pine nuts. I love pine nuts (or pignolis as I grew up calling them) but they can be pretty pricey. And since I almost always have walnuts in the pantry, I frequently substitute them. I also think the apple to couscous ratio is a bit off— the fruit tends to overwhelm the couscous. Next time I’d probably use slightly less apple. Or I’d add more couscous, which is what I did for this photo.

But all in all, it was an incredibly tasty salad. We ate it with grilled chicken which I soaked for an hour in a marinade I adapted from this recipe.  I used 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/3 fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, and 1 clove of chopped garlic. It was really tender and flavorful!

Below is the recipe for the apple and couscous salad.

Israeli Couscous and Apple Salad

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup Israeli couscous

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large Gala apple, cored and diced

1 large Calville Blanc d’Hiver or Granny Smith apple, cored and diced

1/4 cup(s) fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons minced shallot

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint

1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano

Freshly ground pepper

In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add couscous, shaking pan occasionally, and cook until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in 2 cups water and salt, then bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook couscous until tender, about 6 minutes; drain and rinse.

In a large bowl, toss together apples and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Mix in shallot and couscous. Transfer apple mixture to a serving dish and sprinkle in feta and pine nuts.

In a mini food processor or blender, pulse together mint, oregano, and remaining lemon juice until herbs are finely chopped. Add remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in a slow, steady stream until blended. Season dressing with pepper. Drizzle dressing over salad and gently toss.

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