Many people are under the misconception that couscous is a grain when in fact, it is actually a whole grain pasta made from semolina or whole wheat flour. I can see how it might be confused when looking at a bowl of the typical Middle Eastern couscous, but it’s much easier to tell when dealing with pearl couscous (a.k.a Israeli or Jerusalem couscous). Although both types of couscous have their merits, I am much more a fan of the more toothsome pearl variety.
For this vibrant salad, I first toasted the couscous in a little bit of olive oil to bring out a little nuttiness in the pasta and then cooked it with saffron and spices. A couple zucchini and red bell pepper were grilled and chopped and added along with some chopped parsley and sliced scallions. The salad was really brought to life when tossed with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s truly that easy.
This salad is incredibly versatile… you can use any combination veggies, or try adding some nuts, olives, or dried fruit; you could substitute the couscous for the bulgur in your favorite tabbouleh recipe, or cook the couscous with stock if you’re not into saffron … the choices are endless. If you’re tired of the same ol’ pasta salad, twist it up and give this a try!
Saffron Pearl Couscous Salad with Grilled Vegetables
serves six to eight
1 red bell pepper
1/4 extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for grilling
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup pearl or Israeli couscous toasted in
2 cups water
1 large pinch saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bunch scallions, sliced
1 bunch parsley, chopped
Juice from 1 lemon
Method: Direct heat
Remove the top and bottom of the zucchini and slice lengthwise 1/2-inch wide; set aside. Cut down the sides of the bell pepper to remove the stem and seed. Use a paring knife to cut out any remaining pith. Set up your grill for medium heat. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side until marked and just al dente – do not cook until soft, you want them to still have a little crunch. Set the vegetables aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to a medium saucepan, add the couscous and stir to coat. Toast couscous over medium heat until golden; about 5 minutes stirring frequently. Stir in the water, saffron, coriander, and cumin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. While the couscous cooks, chop the vegetables.
Transfer couscous to a mixing bowl and toss with the vegetables, scallions, and parsley. Squeeze in the lemon juice and and drizzle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat and taste for seasoning. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cheers and Happy Grilling!