This simple weeknight dinner cooks up in a jiff for light summer fare. The star of the show is couscous, which is a tiny circular pasta made from wheat. Couscous is popular in Turkish, Moroccan and Mediterranean dishes and packs a good amount of protein (one cup of cooked couscous contains 6 to 8 grams of protein). Just like other pastas, whole wheat couscous has a higher fiber content than regular (5 to 6 grams per cup). Israeli, or pearled, couscous is larger than its tiny counterpart Moroccan couscous and has a chewier texture. Most of the couscous available in the U.S. is pre-steamed, which means it just needs to be added to boiling water and sit for a few minutes before it’s ready to serve.
I opted to serve this couscous over a bed of spinach and top with sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade, feta cheese and a drizzle of oil and vinegar for a heart-healthy and quick meal.
Easy Mediterranean Couscous Summer Salad
For the couscous
- 3⁄4 cup dried Moroccan whole wheat couscous
- 1¼ cup vegetable broth (or water)
- 1 cup (4-5 oz.) cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, leaves removed from stems and chopped
- ¼ cup raw pine nuts
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- 4 cups fresh spinach leaves
- Bring water or broth to a boil; add couscous, cover and remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
- Meanwhile, sauté the cherry tomatoes and garlic on low heat in a small skillet, until fragrant and softened (about 2 to 3 minutes). Add to couscous along with the parsley, salt and pepper, and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Using the same skillet as the tomatoes/garlic, toast the pine nuts over medium high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until golden brown. Be careful not to burn. Add to the couscous and mix well.
- Arrange couscous over a bed of fresh spinach and top with olive tapenade (see recipe below), feta and an extra drizzle of balsamic and olive oil, if desired.
For the sun-dried tomato and olive tapenade
- 1 cup pitted olives (I used a medley of black, green, and Kalamata olives)
- 3⁄4 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil (drained off the oil)
- 2 tablespoons reserved oil from the sun-dried tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons capers (drained)
- 1 tablespoon finely minced fresh basil (about 5-6 leaves)
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon 100% pure maple syrup (note: do not use the “fake” maple syrups, AKA high fructose corn syrup, or this will alter the flavor. The maple syrup cuts some of the brininess).
Combine all ingredients in a food processor, immersion blender, or regular blender and pulse gently until it forms a thick paste. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.