I received a few requests this weekend for easy, vegetarian recipes. Couscous and quinoa salad immediately came to mind because they’re healthy, full of whole grains and vegetables, and are very simple to make.
When it comes to couscous, I prefer Israeli to North African. Israeli couscous is bigger and more pasta-like than the smaller, grainy North African. Instead of North African, I usually use quinoa which has a similar texture, but more nutritional benefits.
Israeli couscous, or pearl couscous, is typically made from semolina and flour. Its’ small, round granules give it a lovely chewy consistency. It’s often a side dish, but don’t dismiss it as a main. It can be the star too! Toasting the couscous gives it a nutty flavor and helps the morsels cook through without falling apart.
I was inspired by the sugar snap peas, asparagus, and green beans at Whole Foods today, but you can use any vegetable readily available. It would be fantastic with a mix of roasted zucchini.
You’ll see this recipe calls for cinnamon. Even if you’re not a huge fan of this spice, I encourage you to at least try it in this recipe once. The cinnamon gives the final dish that extra “somethin” special and really makes a world of difference.
Aspara-pea-bean Israeli Couscous Salad
2 T olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
1 dried bay leaf
1 3/4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb green beans
1/2 lb sugar snap peas
1/2 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
juice of 1/2 orange
1/4 cup raisins
black pepper to taste
1. Add 1 T olive oil in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add pine nuts and toast until golden brown. Transfer to small bowl.
2. Soak the raisins in the orange juice, set aside to use later.
3. Prepare to steam the vegetables. Pour a couple of inches water into a pot. Place the steamer insert in, cover, and place over medium-high heat until water is boiling. Place string beans in the steamer basket for about 5 minutes until a pairing knife goes in with no resistance. Immediately shock them in an ice water bath to maintain bright green color. Do the same to the asparagus and sugar snap peas.
Tip: Steam extra veggies (1 lb of each instead of 1/2 lb) and store in the refrigerator for an easy weeknight saute, or salad.
4. Add 1 T oil in same pan, add shallots and saute until golden.
5. Add couscous, cinnamon and bay leaf. Stir continuously until couscous begins to brown. Add broth and salt. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender (approx 10 minutes).
Remove from heat, stir in parsley, pine nuts, raisins with orange juice, and lemon zest.
6. Serve warm or room temperature.