There are endless variations on cold couscous salad. Add or subtract an ingredient, spice up the dressing or calm it down. I could spend my entire summer trying them all. Still, Minty Couscous Salad remains my favorite.
I typically make a huge batch, which we gobble up over the course of a few days. It makes an elegant side with a grilled salmon dinner, works well as lunch on its own, and it is terrific as a snack one late afternoon. It fits perfectly into this month’s Progressive Eats theme – easy summer dishes.
What is couscous? “Real” couscous comes from semolina whole or white wheat, barley, or millet. It is rolled and separated into tiny morsels. In the US there are two sizes of couscous; one is super tiny granules and the other resembles grains of demerara (raw) sugar. I prefer the larger version because it has more texture and stands out more once you add other ingredients.
As to whole wheat vs white – I see a difference in color (the whole wheat is darker), but can’t discern a difference in taste once the couscous is cooked and used in a dish. So for nutrition, I would choose whole wheat. This batch, however, used white because that’s what I had on hand. I’m not one to waste food if I can help it.
The traditional way to cook couscous is to steam it for over a half hour. That method requires both time and special equipment or at least a steamer and a towel. However, in the US, we have pre-steamed couscous that requires only boiling water, a quick stir and a short rest in a covered pot. While the traditional method yields a better result if you’re a gourmet, the quick preparation method works fine, especially in a dish with dressing or sauce.
So-called Israeli or Jerusalem couscous is actually pasta. Its shape is entirely round, unlike real, bead-like couscous. It is also 2-3 or more times larger – about the size of the Italian pasta called acini di pepe. While I like Israeli or Jerusalem couscous, it does not absorb dressing as well as the real deal.
Tips to Make Minty Couscous Salad (or Any Couscous Salad) a Stand-Out.
- Separating the couscous – Do not simply pull the couscous out of the pot with a spoon. If you do, it will clump up. Instead, once the couscous absorbs the water, run a fork over it to separate the grains.
- Which vegetables, nuts and fruits to include – Make them colorful. This is an ideal recipe for using up bits and pieces of ingredients.
- Cut Up the Add-ins – Dice the vegetables, nuts, mint and parsley into small pieces. While the process may be tedious, the reward is a salad with a lovely texture. If you are using cucumbers (other than the Persian type that have barely any seeds inside), you should remove the seeds by making a V-shaped in the center.
- Mixing well and in order– Although you might be tempted to dump all the add-ins at once, don’t! The Minty Couscous Salad will be much lighter and better mixed if you start by adding the vegetables and then mixing them into the couscous well then add the parsley, mint, scallions, and nuts, mixing once again, and finally adding the nuts, then the dressing before letting the salad rest so that the flavors meld together.
- Use fragrant spices – Smell your spices before you use them. Are they still fragrant or have they lost their delightful aroma? They should deliver more than just color.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is a Easy Summer Dishes, and our host is Barb who blogs at Creative Culinary
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. Progressive Eats is a virtual party. Our host for the month chooses the theme, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of the delicious summer inspired dishes!
Easy Summer Dishes
- Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel Board – Creative Culinary
- Radish Toast, Two Ways – Sarah’s Cucina Bella
- Country-Style Potato Salad with Creole Mustard – Karen’s Kitchen Stories
- Cucumber Salad – Healthy Delicious
- Blistered Shishito Peppers with Cheese – The Wimpy Vegetarian
- Indian Carrot Salad – SpiceRoots
- Chicken Fried Rice – The Heritage Cook
- Minty Couscous Salad – Mother Would Know
- Fudgy Brownies from Scratch – That Skinny Chick Can Bake
Minty Couscous Salad
A simple, yet addictive couscous salad that combines the sweetness of mint with other spices and vegetables.
- 2 cups water About 473 ml
- 2 cups large kernel "regular" (not Jerusalem or Israeli) couscous About 12 & 1/2 oz/355g
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter 1 oz/28g
Add-Ins for Couscous Salad
- 2 cups finely diced "hard" such as carrots, colorful peppers, seeded cucumbers (removing the inside membrane and seeds), celery, and radishes About 10 & 1/2 oz/300g
- 1/2 cup finely diced Italian (flat leaf) parsley About 1 oz/30g
- 1/2 cup finely diced fresh mint leaves About 1 oz/30g
- 1/2 cup currants or raisins About 2&1/2 oz/70g. Currants are smaller than raisins. If you use raisins instead and you're obsessive, cut them.
- 1/4 cup orange juice (freshly squeezed) 2 oz/59 ml or about the juice from half an orange.
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts About 2&1/2 oz/70g. Preferably pistachios or pine nuts (for an especially Middle Eastern taste), or walnuts. You can mix the nuts if you do not have enough of any single variety.
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions, green and white parts About 1&1/2 oz/45g
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 2 oz/59 ml or about the juice from about 1&1/2 lemons.
- 1/4 cup olive oil 2 oz/59 ml
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt
- freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium size pot. Add the oil or butter, mix them in and add the couscous. Stir the couscous for 30 seconds as it begins to absorb the water, then cover the pot, remove from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes.
Remove the cover, separate the couscous granules by running a fork over and through them. If necessary break up clumps with your (clean) hands. Set the couscous aside in a large bowl.
First add the diced vegetables and mix them into the couscous, then the parsley, mint, scallions, and chopped nuts and mix again, gently but well.
Heat the orange juice (with water if necessary) until it is warm but not simmering (microwaving is simple and quick), then add the currants or chopped raisins and let them soak until they have absorbed most of the liquid. Add the fruit and liquid to the couscous and mix.
Mix the spices, lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl with a fork or shake them in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour the dressing over the couscous and gently mix it in.
Let the salad stand for 30 minutes on the counter or refrigerate it to let the flavors blend. Serve with grilled meats, fish, poultry and/or veggies, or as a one-dish lunch.