Easy Mediterranean Couscous Summer Salad

Easy Mediterranean Couscous Summer Salad
Photo: Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN

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

Ingredients

  • 34 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

Directions

  1. Bring water or broth to a boil; add couscous, cover and remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pitted olives (I used a medley of black, green, and Kalamata olives)
  • 3cup 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).

Directions

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.

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Natalie Colla
Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN, is a diabetes educator, food blogger and nutrition writer. When she’s not experimenting in the kitchen or the garden, you will likely find her exploring the great outdoors of her home in Idaho. Connect with her on her website, Plantastic Eating, or on Instagram and LinkedIn.