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Meatless Monday: Israeli cous cous salad

August 2, 2011

Published in The Christian Science Monitor

Efficiency is usually one of my best qualities. Whether I’m primping my hair in the morning, completing a project at work, or dicing vegetables for a stir-fry, I’m quick and logical. The same, however, cannot be said when I’m shopping at the grocery store.

Even when eggs are the only item on my list, I meander the aisles, slowly eyeing familiar shelves for inspiring ingredients. The specialty cheese section always takes me a while, and so do the bulk bins at Whole Foods. Red, green, and brown lentils, buckwheat, and barley – how’s a girl to choose?

After blocking cart traffic for several minutes on a recent trip, I settled on Israeli cous cous, to use as the base for a warm summer salad. Though it lacks the nutrients of the aforementioned lentils, the small pearl shape makes for an exciting textural alternative to rice or rotini pasta – especially with crunchy toasted walnuts and soft feta cheese.

Notes: Many recipes call for preparing Israeli cous cous like risotto (coating it in oil, slowly adding broth), but for this one, I cooked it in a pot of boiling water, like pasta. And don’t skip on toasting the walnuts. It only takes a few minutes on the stove to really maximize their flavor (and not much longer to burn, so be watchful).

Israeli cous cous salad

2 to 3 servings

1 cup Israeli cous cous
1/3 cup walnuts, crumbled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper

Fill a medium pot with water and bring to a boil. Add the Israeli cous cous with a dash of salt and let cook on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until cous cous is fluffy (but not mushy).

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in an un-oiled frying pan on medium heat, for 3 to 5 minutes, until nuts start to brown.

Combine the cooked cous cous, toasted walnuts, olive oil, onion, pepper, parsley, and feta cheese. Salt and pepper to taste and serve warm or cold.

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