This pasta salad was the final part of the epic dinner I made last week. Although it was tasty, I didn't think it really went with the burgers and sweet potatoes - I think I'd be more likely to serve this as picnic or lunch food. Israeli couscous is combined with sauteed veggies (onion, bell pepper, and snap peas) and red grapes, and then everything is tossed with a yummy fresh thyme dressing. The one thing we thought was missing was acid - and so when I ate the leftovers, I squeezed lemon juice all over the salad before eating it, which just brought everything together and made the salad way more delicious. (I've included the lemon juice in the recipe below, because I definitely consider it essential!) This makes for a great side dish, but you could also add something else to make it a bit heartier and serve it as a light main dish - perhaps pine nuts and feta cheese, or cubed roasted chicken, or even sauteed Italian sausage.
Israeli Couscous Salad with Red Grapes and Sauteed Vegetables (adapted from Salad Days)
Serves 3-4 as a side dish
1/4 cup olive oil
1 T Cabernet or sherry vinegar
1 T cider vinegar
1/2 T fresh thyme, minced
A few grinds of black pepper
Generous pinch of salt
1/2 large red onion, minced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup snap peas, trimmed and sliced into small pieces
1 cup Israeli couscous, whole wheat if possible
2 cups chicken broth, hot
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to serve
1. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a glass jar with a tightly fitting lid. Screw on the lid, and shake vigorously until combined. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use.
2. Add enough olive oil to your pan to just coat the bottom. Heat over medium-high heat until shimmering, and then add the onion. Cook until just softened, and then add the bell pepper and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the vegetables are browned, and then remove from heat and stir in the peas. Set aside until ready to use.
3. Cool the couscous. Add more oil to the bottom of a non-stick pan (a skillet or a pot would both be fine), and heat over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the couscous and saute, stirring frequently, until it is browned in a few spots. Then add the broth in several additions, stirring occasionally (no need to stir as much as risotto. Whenever the pot gets dry, add more liquid, until the couscous is cooked through and the liquid is evaporated.
4. Remove the couscous from the heat. Stir the reserved vegetables and the grapes into the couscous. Then add about half the dressing. Stir to combine, and add more dressing as needed. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
5. Just before serving, squeeze lemon juice over each portion and serve either warm or room temperature.