I first made this salad several years ago. I remember that I had bought couscous and did not know what to make with it. So I looked around and saw a lot of lemon, cheese, tomato combo with couscous. I do not particularly enjoy fresh tomatoes (yes, I am one of those) but grape tomatoes were something I could manage. So I went and bought some of those, a lemon and some feta. I made the couscous, tossed in the tomatoes, feta and lemon juice with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. It tasted good, but visually it lacked something. One more color will be nice. Maybe green, I thought. Some herbs. I only had cilantro with me as a fresh herb and I put that into this. It was okay, it wasn’t that great.
It was much later that I saw parsley in a middle eastern salad recipe that had some feta, cucumber, lemon and tomatoes. I made the couscous again and put parsley instead of cilantro and it actually tasted a lot more cohesive, in terms of the flavors. My salad has been evolving ever since. I add lemon zest now, instead of the juice from the lemon as I feel it is packed with a lot more flavors and does not give out a whole lot of sourness to the salad. I toast some nuts – walnuts or pine nuts mostly, and add them to the salad. I use cucumbers, cherry/grape tomatoes, grapes, cranberries (dried) / raisins. I sometimes use feta, other times it is goat cheese. The parsley is always there. This is the one time I used some scallions for the spicy zing as I was out of parsley and it was actually pretty good. It even had a little crunch to it, in terms of texture.
This is just such a versatile salad as long as you have the basic lemon zest, tomatoes, something sweet (grapes, dried cranberries or raisins), something nutty and crunchy (pine nuts / walnuts, make sure it is toasted), a soft cheese, parsley/scallion, olive oil, salt and pepper going on.
I had a tub of some Middle Eastern Cream Cheese from Annis Karam of the Karam’s Garlic Sauce fame. It said on the tub to top with some olive oil and enjoy as an appetizer. So, we topped it with some olive oil and enjoyed it with our couscous instead and it was a very creamy , herb-y addition to the salad, especially when I did not put any other cheese to it.
Lemony Couscous Salad – The Recipe
Pearl Couscous – 1 cup
Grape Tomatoes, halved – 1/2 cup
Cucumber, diced – 1/2 cup
Olive Oil – 3 tbsp
Zest of half a lemon
Pine nuts – 1/4 cup
Salt and fresh crushed black pepper – to taste
Scallions, minced – 2 tbsp
Sumac – 1 tsp
Cook the couscous as per the instructions on the package. Drain well and set aside.
Add the tomatoes, cucumber, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper to a bowl.
Add the couscous to this and toss well.
Toast the pine nuts in a skillet, until light golden brown. Add that to the salad.
Add the scallions, toss again.
Top with the sumac and serve.
- Pearl Couscous - 1 cup
- Grape Tomatoes, halved - ½ cup
- Cucumber, diced - ½ cup
- Olive Oil - 3 tbsp
- Zest of half a lemon
- Pine nuts - ¼ cup
- Salt and fresh crushed black pepper - to taste
- Scallions, minced - 2 tbsp
- Sumac - 1 tsp
- Cook the couscous as per the instructions on the package. Drain well and set aside.
- Add the tomatoes, cucumber, lemon zest, olive oil, salt and pepper to a bowl.
- Add the couscous to this and toss well.
- Toast the pine nuts in a skillet, until light golden brown. Add that to the salad.
- Add the scallions, toss again.
- Top with the sumac and serve.