This bright and sunny Israeli couscous salad is a fresh stand-in for pasta salad at your next barbecue (without all the mayonnaise). Israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous, is a toasted pasta shaped like little round balls and made from wheat or semolina. It’s similar to traditional couscous, which is made from granules of semolina, but larger and chewier.
It can be prepared in many ways, but I particularly love it in a salad. Not only is this salad fast and super easy to prepare, but it’s a real crowd- (and kid-) pleaser. And you can make it in advance, so it’s excellent to take along to your friend’s next gathering or for a picnic in the park.
It’s also as versatile as it is easy to make. Don’t have Israeli couscous? Use cooked farro instead! Have an abundance of zucchini? Sear it lightly on the grill, chop it up, and throw it in. It’s also fantastic served atop thick slices of ripe heirloom tomatoes. Add some chopped bocconcini mozzarella and swap out the white wine vinegar for balsamic, and you have yourself a Caprese pasta salad.
So, next time you are wondering what to make for the potluck barbecue at your Aunt’s house…try this crowd-pleaser.
Recipe: Israeli Couscous, Cherry Tomato, Arugula Salad with Basil Pesto Vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups Israeli couscous
- Kosher salt
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/4 cup best-quality fresh basil pesto (or better yet, homemade)
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Juice of 1/2 large lemon
- 1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (about 8 ounces)
- About 2 cups baby arugula
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- Add 2 tablespoons oil to a large saucepan, and warm over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring, until toasted and golden, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, then add the boiling water (be careful as it will fizzle and sizzle wildly!). Bring the mixture back to a boil, stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low and let simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain in a fine mesh sieve and cool under cold running water; drain well. Transfer to a large serving bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- In a bowl, whisk together the pesto, vinegar, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt. Pour over the couscous and toss to coat. Set aside for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour at room temperature.
- Just before serving, add the tomatoes and arugula and toss to combine. Garnish with the pine nuts and serve.