As I’ve previously admitted, I’m not much of a grower. I think I lack some gardener’s gene. I like to use the excuse that my yard doesn’t get enough sun. Which is mostly true, and gets me off the hook. Last summer I did successfully nurture one chile pepper plant that was in a pot on my deck. Although I’m not sure “nurture” is the right word. I pretty much just let it take care of itself and it thrived ok. (This sounds suspiciously like my parenting skills too.)
I’ve made this delicious salad twice now, and it takes a lot of fresh herbs. It’s the herbs that make all the difference. Israeli couscous is one of those ingredients that’s a blank slate. It takes on whatever flavors it’s mixed with. Therefore, if your herbs are fresh and flavorful, your salad will be as well. How to get the freshest herbs is probably very obvious to most of you - grow them yourself. Well, yes, I suppose. Unless you’re me.
But, wait, what’s that, there on my deck?
Why yes, it’s oregano. And basil and thyme. Even some Hungarian wax peppers, waiting to be planted. And hopefully they will actually grow. And then I can go and pick them.
What a concept. Hope springs eternal. Please, when you leave a comment here on the blog, remind me to water them.
Enjoy this salad at room temperature. It has a slight Asian flavor from the mint and cilantro, as well as the sweet splash of rice vinegar. When I had leftovers, I added a can of tuna and took it for lunch. Deliciousness. And remember, you can always try a different grain. Rice would be great, as would barley or quinoa.
Lemony Herbed Israeli Couscous Salad
2 cups Israeli (pearl) couscous
4 cups water
3 Tbsps. rice wine vinegar
2 tsps. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. honey (or agave syrup)
1/4 cup olive oil (if you have a lemon-flavored oil, use it!)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 small red chile pepper (more or less to taste), minced
1/2 cup salted and roasted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed, leaves torn
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring the 4 cups of water to a boil and add salt generously. Add couscous, turn heat to simmer and cover. Cook until all the water is absorbed and couscous is tender 10-15 minutes. When done, turn the cooked couscous out onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper, spread it out and allow to cool to room temperature.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Juice both lemons into a medium bowl. Add the vinegar, brown sugar, honey, 1 tsp. sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Whisk in olive oil.
Place all the cut vegetables in a large bowl, top with cooled couscous and then chopped herbs and the watercress. Add most of the dressing and toss well. Taste, and if you think it needs more dressing, add it. You may also want to add more salt to your taste at this point. Top salad with chopped peanuts. Refrigerate until one hour before serving. Let the salad come to room temperature before serving.