Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Couscous Salad with Feta

Our favorite new side dish bursting with Greek flavors. BY INA AMOR MEJIA
HERE'S A DISH THAT NEEDS NO RECIPE. And if you've made Greek Salad before, you're already half way there. This is basically like a mini version of the salad, because you'll have all the ingredients in smaller chunks, plus the couscous, which is the twist that I love about this dish.

The hardest thing will be preparing the couscous, but only if you've never done it before. But even then it will be pretty straightforward. Just buy good quality couscous, which is actually a type of pasta and not a grain, and will look like this...

Once you've started making couscous, you'll see how delicious and versatile it is. It's great with bigger dishes like Lamb Tagine, or with simpler ones like this salad. Just be careful to read the package instructions well before preparing the couscous, which is essentially just putting it in some boiling water. And keep these tips in mind.



Couscous, prepared following package instructions
Cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
Ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
finely chopped garlic
finely chopped red onions
chopped Parsley (reserve some herbs for garnish)
chopped mint
Olive oil
Lemon juice and wedges to serve
black pitted Kalamata olives, sliced (optional)
good crumbled Feta cheese

To make the salad:
Prepare your couscous and set aside to cool a bit. Then add the garlic, onions, parsley and mint.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. The couscous will be cold. About 30 minutes before serving, add the tomatoes and the cucumber and mix in gently with a fork to fluff the couscous. Right before serving, make a little dressing with a bit of the olive oil and some lemon juice, and mix into the couscous. Don't add too much that the couscous becomes oily. The dressing is meant to just finish the couscous and add another layer of flavor. Season with salt and black pepper, and finally add the feta and the olives if any. You can also garnish the salad with some more crumbled feta and the herbs.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Why no measurements?
Because it's hard to determine how much of the other ingredients you'll want to add to the couscous. Just eyeball it and think about a balanced proportion of the vegetables to the couscous. Or maybe not. Some people might like more couscous, others will like less of it and more of the veggies. Others will like more feta cheese, less tomatoes. Just don't add too much garlic or onions. The couscous will sit in the fridge with both before serving and might end up being overwhelmingly garlicky if you add too much.

How should it taste?
You should be able to taste the parsley, mint and lemon. They give this salad its spirit and identity. And season well. Salt and pepper will spell the difference between an otherwise interesting but bland salad, and one that's a winner.

Why can't I just mix everything all at once?
I guess you could and make it simpler, but I don't do this because I'm worried about the raw garlic and the oil and the risk of botulism. Then again I could be wrong. I realize there might be too little of the oil in this recipe really, and perhaps mixing in the lemon juice reduces the risk even further, but I like staying on the safe side. Speaking of which, as with all salads with raw ingredients, make sure all the vegetables are washed properly, and the herbs too. Here's a good tip on how to do that.

Make the salad on the day it's to be served. I find the couscous gets a bit mushy the next day and doesn't keep very well.

But don't worry, this is an easy dish I think anyone can get right the first time. You can add the Kalamata olives and other good things like pine nuts for crunch too. It's a great side dish to a roast chicken with similar flavors, a favorite curry, and juicy chicken kebabs or simple lamb meatballs served with a lush yogurt sauce.

Just remember three words: healthy, satisfying, and cheese.

Thanks for reading!  

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