Let’s hear it for Mark Bittman, food writer extraordinaire and cookbook hero to all! The 10th anniversary edition of his best-selling How To Cook Everything Vegetarian focuses squarely on all things produce. From soups and salads to elegant, hearty main courses, this is the book to pick up if you’re looking to expand your repertoire. Start with this simple, healthy, flavor-packed pearl couscous salad and enjoy as a side dish or on its own.
Both pearl (Israeli) and “regular” couscous are actually forms of pasta; the only difference is size. Regular couscous is tiny; pearl couscous is about the size of a plump peppercorn, which makes it better for salads. (I’m especially keen on the whole wheat kind, and on fregola, the toasted kind from Sardinia.) This salad is a balancing act of many strong flavors, and personal preference plays a role here. So taste as you go and adjust the seasonings and condiments as you like.
- 1 pound pearl couscous
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/8 cup ground cinnamon
- 1 preserved lemon, skin only, sliced as thin as possible, or 1 tablespoon minced lemon zest
- 2 tablespons capers
- 1/4 cup currants or golden raisins
- 1/2 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained but still moist
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
For the salad
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the couscous, stirring occasionally, until tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes. Drain it well, rinse it briefly with cold running water, and drain again.
Put the oil, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, preserved lemon, capers, and currants in a large bowl with a generous pinch pepper and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more spices, lemon, or salt as you like.
Add the couscous, onion, chickpeas, tomatoes, pine nuts, and parsley and toss once or twice. If possible, let the salad rest at room temperature for an hour, tossing every now and then. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.