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Couscous Vegetable Salad

Couscous, a semolina pasta of tiny, round pellets that is a staple of North African cuisine, makes an excellent salad when tossed with a mixture of finely chopped, brightly colored vegetables. Other vegetables in season may be used; select them with contrasting flavors, textures and colors in mind.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup couscous 
  • 3/4 tsp. kosher salt 
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water 
  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/2 tsp. minced garlic 
  • 1 Tbs. water
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1/2 cup thawed, frozen petite peas or blanched fresh petite peas 
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion 
  • 1/2 cup minced red bell pepper  
  • 1/2 cup finely diced English cucumber  
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
  • 1 cup firmly packed, chiffonade-cut romaine lettuce leaves (see related tip at left) 

Directions:

In a heatproof bowl, combine the couscous, 1/2 tsp. of the salt and the boiling water. Stir to blend. Cover tightly and let stand until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Uncover the couscous and let cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, the 1 Tbs. water and a grind of pepper until blended.

Add the peas, green onion, bell pepper, cucumber, parsley and all but 1 Tbs. of the dressing to the cooled couscous. Toss to mix.

Place the romaine in a separate bowl. Add the remaining 1 Tbs. dressing and toss to coat.

To serve, divide the couscous mixture evenly among individual bowls or plates. Top each serving with an equal amount of the romaine lettuce. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).