I had every intention of upping my game here during the holidays and posting all the recipes that I made over the past few weeks. Recipe after recipe of cookies perfect for easy holiday baking. Gratins and salads that make the best side dishes for Christmas dinner. And a recipe for the very best scalloped potatoes. But alas, Christmas was a whirlwind of eating, drinking, laughing and reminiscing with loved ones, and as a result, I severely neglected my blog. Though, despite my neglect, I now have a backlog of recipes to keep you updated in the new year. And even better, thanks to my very considerate boyfriend, I got an amazing camera for Christmas, so visuals will be so much better than previous pictures taken with my shabby iPhone.
I made this salad for Christmas Eve dinner, which my family hosted for the first time in 15 years. My parents house is filled with antiques, which was not always the most appropriate environment for a group of rambunctious toddlers (i.e. my little cousins). But now that they’re all grown up, some of them almost full-fledged adults, we had the pleasure of hosting almost 20 people, which was daunting, but also incredibly rewarding. My dad, who is an unbelievable cook, did most of the work in the kitchen, including a smoked bone-in Berkshire ham from a heritage pig that everyone went crazy over. There was also roasted asparagus, and the most delicious scalloped potatoes I have ever had (and being a vegetarian I’ve eaten my fair share of scalloped potatoes). I promise to add them to the blog when readers are more inclined to make a cream/cheese/potato filled dish.
I was tasked with making a side salad, and since the potatoes were so rich, I went for something light and healthy. This dish was the perfect compliment to a decadent holiday dinner, but could easily be a main course for a light dinner, or a side dish to a more delicate main like fish or chicken. It’s the perfect recipe to keep you on track for any health-conscious New Year’s resolution you might have.
Israeli Couscous Salad with Fresh Herbs
Adapted from Giada De LaurentiisServes 3-4 as main, 6 as side
Note: Israeli couscous, also known as Ptitim, is a toasted pasta shaped like little balls or rice. While it’s just as easy to cook as the traditional couscous, it has a slightly chewier texture and somewhat nutty flavor since it is toasted. It can be found in most grocery stores these days, but feel free to substitute traditional couscous, farro or any type of grain you have on hand in this recipe.
Haricot Verts, or french green beans, are slightly different than it’s American cousin. They are longer and slimmer in shape, picked at a younger age, and can be slightly sweeter. If you don’t have the french version at your local grocery store, feel free to use American green beans, just blanch them in boiling water for a few seconds to make them tender before adding them to the salad.
- 2 cups Israeli couscous (see note)
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
- 1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup snipped chives
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 1 cup fresh Haricot Verts (french green beans), chopped into 1 inch pieces (see note)
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
Bring 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan and season with a pinch of salt. Once the water is boiling, add the couscous and bring to a boil again. Cover and boil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until couscous is tender, but slightly al dente. (Refer to the packaging instructions as cooking time and water-to-couscous ratio may vary.)
In a small sauté pan, toast the walnuts until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes. Do not burn. Set aside.
Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and allow to cool. Add the onion, tomatoes, chives, parsley, green beans and salt and pepper to taste and toss to combine.
In a small bowl, slowly whisk in the balsamic vinegar into the oil to create an emulsion. Add the garlic and a pinch of sat and pepper to taste and whisk to combine. Pour the oil and vinegar mixture over the couscous and toss to coat. Add the walnuts and toss to evenly combine. Garnish with fresh parsley.
This salad can be made a day in advance, but be sure to bring it up to room temperature before serving.