TasteFood by Lynda Balslev

Make This Couscous Salad the Centerpiece of Your Next Party

This salad does not hold back on herbs and spice. Handfuls of your favorite garden herbs, and a shake of the contents of your spice drawer, build welcome layers of flavor and freshness into this bright and festive couscous platter. Israeli couscous (also known as pearl couscous) is made of wheat flour and semolina, which is rolled into tiny "pearl" balls and then toasted. The dried couscous, once purchased, is simmered in a liquid to soften. I like to toast the dried couscous in the pan with a little olive oil first, before adding the liquid to simmer, which essentially means the couscous is doubly toasted. This extra step adds a satisfying nutty flavor and golden color to the sturdy little semolina balls.

While you can call this salad a hearty side dish, it also makes a delicious vegetarian main course. If desired, add crumbled feta or goat cheese to the salad for extra protein. When choosing the carrots, make sure they are of uniform size to ensure similar cooking time. If necessary, cut thicker carrots in half lengthwise.

Roasted Carrot and Israeli Couscous Salad With Lemon Gremolata

Active Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 cups Israeli (pearl) couscous

2 1/4 cups water

Salt

1 small red chili pepper, minced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

1 1/2 pounds thin rainbow carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise if thick

Freshly ground black pepper

Gremolata:

1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons chopped dill

1 small garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 to 4 cups baby arugula

2 to 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

1/2 lemon, plus wedges for serving

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet. Add the couscous and toast over medium heat until golden, 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover the skillet and simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer the couscous to a bowl and stir in the chili pepper, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin, coriander and cayenne. Let stand at room temperature while you roast the carrots.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the carrots in a large bowl, drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, and lightly season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Spread the carrots on a rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until lightly charred and crisp-tender, about 20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly or to room temperature.

Make the gremolata: Mix the parsley, cilantro, dill, garlic, lemon zest, salt and black pepper in a small bowl.

Scatter the arugula on a serving platter or in a wide, shallow serving bowl. Spoon the couscous over and around the arugula and arrange the carrots on top. Squeeze a lemon over the salad and sprinkle evenly with the gremolata and pine nuts. Garnish the platter with the lemon wedges and serve.

CAPTIONS AND CREDITS