Israeli couscous is a great ingredient to play around with. It also goes by the name pearl couscous, which is especially fitting due to its pear-like shape and size. It’s made from semolina flour, the same flour used to make dried pasta, so it, too, is a type of pasta and has a wonderfully chewy texture. Its nutty flavor that’s a welcomed contrast to buttery green olives (not to mention an added boost of fiber and nutrients). It’s not always easy to find, though, so don’t sweat it if you can only get your hands on regular Israeli couscous. Enjoy this salad for lunch or dinner, either as a side dish or the main affair.
Israeli Couscous Salad with Herbs, Green Olives, and Pistachios [Vegan]
- 4 tablespoons (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons (20 g) finely chopped shallot
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) red wine vinegar
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups (225 g) whole-wheat or regular Israeli (pearl) couscous
- 3 cups (710 ml) water
- 1/3cup (55 g) shelled, raw pistachios
- 1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces, or 255 g) Castel Vetrano olives, or another mild green olive such as Cerignola, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup (20 g) loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 cup (20 g) loosely packed chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4cup (10 g) loosely packed chopped fresh dill
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
- In a large bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons (454 ml) of olive oil, the shallot, vinegar, a generous pinch of salt, and several grinds of black pepper until combined and emulsified. Set aside.
- Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the water and1/2 teaspoon of salt, stir to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Drain the couscous through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any excess cooking liquid.
- Transfer the hot couscous to the bowl of dressing and stir to combine. Let sit, stirring occasionally, to cool, and let the flavors combine 10 to 15 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the pistachios. Spread the pistachios on a rimmed sheet pan and bake, stirring halfway through, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes, then coarsely chop.
- Stir the olives, herbs, and pistachios into the couscous. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The Art of the Make-Ahead Pasta salads are one of my favorite things to make for potlucks, picnics, and even weekday lunches because of their ability to be made ahead and kept well in the fridge for days. However, there are a couple of keys to success. Although it doesn’t matter as much if you’re simply packing up the salad for your own lunch, if you’re bringing it to a gathering, hold off on stirring in the herbs until just before serving. This ensures they stay bright green and maintain their fresh bite. Also, let the salad come fully to room temperature—a cold pasta salad delivers muted flavors. And finally, give it a taste before digging in. The pasta absorbs a whole lot of the vinaigrette when stored so I always find it needs another glug or two of olive oil and vinegar, and maybe another pinch of salt and pepper, to bring it fully back to life.