The weather is warming back up here in the desert, and after a short trip back “home” to the frigid east coast, I’m feeling spring-like again in my 70-something daily temperatures. That means I’m eating fewer slow cooker meals and more light, refreshing salads.
One such lunch is this Israeli couscous salad, which I’ve found to be absolutely perfect for packing up leftovers to take to work. I like to prepare a few days’ worth of lunches at once so I don’t have to remember to pack them on days I’m not home for lunch time. I’m all about advance prep because, well, I’ll forget lunch and then I’ll be hungry.
And I’m not nice when I’m hungry.
I’m betting some of you are nodding heads in agreement.
What I love about this salad is that it has so many textures and flavors happening at once, even though it only has a few ingredients. You’ve got crunchy, refreshing cucumber, sweet and chewy dried apricots, spunky black pepper, and smooth, pearly couscous all in the same bite. Oh, and don’t forget the fresh mint.
Never forget the fresh mint.
This salad is flexible if you want it to be. If you’re not a fan of apricots, golden raisins would work beautifully as well. Some red pepper flakes would spice things up. An infused olive oil would be heavenly, and I would have used one if I’d had it. Lemon, maybe? Or garlic? And if you wanted to, you could replace the fresh mint with fresh basil or another herb of your choice.
But not too crazy.
Keep it simple.
Anyway, though it may be simple, this salad is delicious enough that you won’t get tired of it if you have it for lunch a few days in a row. And it’s vegan, if that’s how you roll.
A simple, refreshing salad with Israeli couscous, apricot, cucumber, fresh mint, and black pepper.
- 2 cups Israeli couscous (pearl couscous)
- 2-1/4 cups water
- 1 cup chopped dried apricots
- 1 cup chopped English cucumber (hothouse cucumber)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- small handful of fresh mint leaves
- additional sea salt to taste
Toast couscous by placing it in a saucepan on medium heat and tossing/stirring until it begins to smell nutty and fragrant.
Add water by pouring slowly, reduce heat to a simmer, and place a lid on the pan. Cook until all the water has been absorbed. This should take about 5-10 minutes but can depend on your stove, so keep a close eye on it. When all the water has been absorbed, remove from heat and allow to sit with the lid on for 5 more minutes.
Fluff the couscous with a fork and place in a bowl in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, turning gently with a fork about halfway through. You aren't necessarily aiming to make it cold so much as cool it enough that it doesn't "cook" the cucumber when you add it.
When the couscous has cooled somewhat, remove from the fridge and add the apricots, English cucumber, sea salt, black pepper, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and mint leaves. Toss with a fork or tongs to combine. Taste and add additional salt if desired.
Serve immediately or chill for later. This salad can be served right away slightly warm, and it's also delicious cold if served chilled or as leftovers. I don't recommend re-heating any leftovers.