Israeli Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Arugula

Twitter-version>   This salad is delicious.  Everyone should make it.  The end.

Blogger version> It’s all about my comfort zone.

More specifically, going outside my comfort zone.  I used to do that back in the day.   Armed with my just-arrived copies of Bon Appetit and Gourmet, I ventured into ethnic neighborhoods in search of ingredients from far away lands.   I stuffed squab, cleaned squid, shucked oysters and spent an entire weekend making cassoulet.  A foodie on a mission to conquer the great unknowns of the culinary world.  The suburban, female equivalent of Anthony Bourdain.

But time marches on and things change.

I am blessed with children.  I work, volunteer and keep an eagle eye on the household budget.  The food ventures become few and far between.  I suppose it’s inevitable as we age, we tend to go out on a limb less.  Comfort equals the familiar.  The familiar is safe.

A few months ago I was flipping through the pages of Food & Wine.  Flipping, meaning I had no intention of making any of the recipes, even though they all looked delicious.  Back in the day perhaps, but that’s not me anymore, I told myself.    That’s when my inner foodie swooped down, slapped me upside the head and shouted, “wake up sister and get back out on that limb!”   That inner foodie’s a feisty one, she is.

To make a long story even longer, I did decide to make some recipes from that issue of F&W, only I let my Facebook fans randomly select a page, and I promised to make whatever recipe appeared on that page.   These randomly selected recipes have since led me to ingredients like elderflower liqueur and red curry and tamarind soda.  Unfamiliarity, as it turns out, can be a most flavorful thing.

Which brings me to this recipe, recently selected at random by a Facebook fan, Cheryl B.  I must thank her because it’s everything I love in a dish: fresh and lively, colorful and quick.   Bonus: serve with poached or grilled shrimp, drizzled with a little of the leftover dressing.

It’s not every night, but once a week or so I now take a walk out on that limb.  Must keep that inner foodie satisfied, you know.

And the salad?  It really is delicious.  Everyone should make it!  The end.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Arugula*

2 6.3 ounce boxes Israeli-style couscous (about 2 1/2 cups)

4 TBS olive oil

4 cups boiling water

1/2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel

3 TBS fresh lemon juice

1 medium shallot, minced

1 TBS chopped fresh basil

2 tsp honey

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

3 medium plum tomatoes, seeds removed and chopped

3 cups baby arugula

4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts or pine nuts

  1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 TBS of the olive oil.  Add the couscous and stir over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until golden brown.   Carefully add the boiling water and return mixture to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer, covered, about 12 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Fluff the couscous lightly with a fork.  Spread onto a shallow baking pan and let cool for about 10 minutes.
  2. In the meantime, make the dressing by combining the remaining 3 TBS olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, shallot, basil, honey, salt and pepper in a jar.  Cover and shake well.  Set aside. (dressing can be made one day in advance.  Refrigerate and then let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before using)
  3. In a bowl, combine the cooled couscous, tomatoes, arugula, mozzarella and walnuts.  Toss with just enough dressing to coat.  Check for seasonings and if necessary, add some additional salt and a few turns of black pepper.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 6 hours.

Serves 6

* You may substitute the equivalent amount of cooked orzo or any other very small pasta for the couscous.

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