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Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Bell Peppers

Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Bell Peppers
Although couscous is commonly mistaken for a grain, it is actually tiny pasta made from durum-wheat semolina. In North African countries such as Tunisia and Morocco, where it is a staple, it is traditionally made by hand and then steamed twice in a special two-tiered pot called a couscousière. Elsewhere, precooked dried couscous, sometimes called instant couscous, is available either packaged or in bulk. It requires no cooking at all, just rehydrating in boiling water, before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1⁄4 cup plus 1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups instant couscous
  • 1 1⁄2 roasted red bell peppers, peeled, seeded
      and coarsely chopped (see related tip at left)
  • 1 1⁄2 cups mixed red and yellow cherry
      tomatoes, stemmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped fresh mint, plus whole sprigs
      for garnish
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbs. grated orange zest
  • 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar

Directions:

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the water, the 1 tsp. olive oil and 1/2 tsp. of the salt and bring to a boil. Pour in the couscous, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. The liquid will be fully absorbed and the couscous will have plumped.

Transfer the couscous to a large serving bowl. Using a fork, fluff the couscous grains to separate them. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes, chopped mint, orange juice, orange zest, the 1/4 cup olive oil, the vinegar and the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Mix gently but well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend.

Garnish with the mint sprigs and serve the salad chilled or at room temperature. Serves 8.

Make-Ahead Tip: Because this salad is best when the flavors have been allowed to blend for several hours, it is a good choice for making in the morning and taking along to a leisurely picnic. It can be carried easily in a covered bowl.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Salad, by Georgeanne Brennan (Simon & Schuster, 2001).