Jerusalem or Israeli Cous Cous Salad is one of my favorite spring or summer hearty salads.
Think of it as a chopped salad with a grain-like ingredient that’s not a grain or a pasta that doesn’t seem like pasta. That no-grain, un-pasta-like ingredient is Jerusalem or Israeli cous cous, a tiny, ball-shaped pasta called “pitim” in Hebrew. A versatile base for cold salads or hot dishes, Jerusalem or Israeli cous cous is a nice change of pace for pasta-eaters.
You can buy Jerusalem cous cous in containers, generally in the ethnic or Middle Eastern section of groceries, but I bought mine from a bulk bin – less expensive and less wasteful, at least for us.
This salad combination began with a farmers market beet, politely requesting that I use it instead of leaving it to languish in my vegetable. How could I refuse? Normally I roast beets whole or halved, but that takes a while and I wasn’t up for heating up the house in the summer anyway. As I rummaged further, I found a leek and off we went.
Jerusalem or Israeli Cous Cous Salad
A hearty, yet light salad. The star of this show is Jerusalem or Israeli cous cous, a pasta that seems at first like a grain, but cooks like pasta. Delicious!
- 1/2 cup Jerusalem or Israeli cous cous
- 1 large beet, peeled and diced into tiny pieces (about the size of your pinky nail) (about ¾ -1 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, diced into tiny pieces (about ¾ cup diced)
- 1/2 stalk large leek (white part only) or 1 medium red onion, diced into tiny pieces (about ¾ cup diced)
- 1/2 cup pignola or pine nuts, lightly roasted (unsalted)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill or 1½ teaspoons fresh dill, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, + additional 1 & 1/2 teaspoons
- 1 1/2 teaspoons unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons orange juice
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- Preheat the toaster oven or regular oven to 400 degrees F.
- Bring about 2 cups of water to a rolling boil in the pot along with a sprinkle of salt. Add the Jerusalem or Israeli cous cous and cook for 6-8 minutes until it is done but not mushy. After draining, run cold water over the cous cous, and leave it in the strainer to drain all the water out.
- As the cous cous is cooking, cut up the vegetables, parsley and fresh dill if you’re using it.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the tray/pan for 30 seconds - 1 minute in the toaster or regular oven. Then spread the diced beets onto it, tossing them in the oil. Sprinkle the diced beets with salt and pepper and roast them for 15 minutes, stirring the pieces about halfway through cooking. Remove the tray/pan from the oven and let the diced beets cool.
- Heat the other tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the celery and chopped leeks or onion, stirring occasionally over a medium-low heat until they are softened but not browned. After about 8 minutes, add the pignola or pine nuts and continue stirring for another few minutes – about 10-12 minutes total for the vegetables and 2-4 for the nuts. Remove the mixture from the heat.
- Mix the 1½ teaspoons remaining of the olive oil, the rice wine vinegar and the orange juice. (Start with 1 tablespoon of juice and add more if desired.) Combine the cous cous, all the vegetables, and the dill and parsley, stirring gently. Add salt and pepper to taste – probably about ¼ - ½ teaspoon of salt and a few turns of a pepper mill. Add the dressing and stir again. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to chill.
I buy the roasted, unsalted pine nuts from Trader Joes. If yours aren’t roasted already, that’s OK, they’ll cook in with the vegetables.
Remember mise on place? This recipe – and all others – go much faster if you gather the ingredients before you start cooking and work methodically.
Beets do stain. As you cut the beet, keep a damp paper towel handy and don’t use a white cutting board if you care about what it looks like afterwards. Also, the beet will color the cous cous –if you mind that color “seepage”, use orange/yellow beets if you can find them, or substitute another “hard” vegetable, such as carrots or parsnips.
You can use other vegetables besides beets and leeks– the template still works. The basic idea is to cook and cool the cous cous, chop vegetables into pieces roughly the size of the cooked cous cous, sauté or roast them, throw in a vinaigrette flavored with orange juice along with a few herbs, and chill the mixture – presto! Jerusalem cous cous salad. If you’re efficient about how you go about the chopping and cooking, you can have the salad done in less than 30 minutes and in the refrigerator, cooling it down takes only a short time. With a simple piece or fish or chicken, or a light summer soup and maybe a nice fresh loaf of bread, you’ve got quite a lovely dinner.