I don’t know about where you live, but the weather this summer in Vermont has been “pants,” as my friend in Switzerland would say. Very rainy and very humid. I wilt like a flower when I go outside and my hair has been a permanent Afro for weeks. I heard on the radio the other day we just completed the longest stretch of humid weather on record! (And after a two-day reprieve, humid weather all this week.) So since the weather isn’t ideal for cooking, I try to make dishes that bring at least a little bit of cool to the palate in the evening.
My inspiration for this was from a recipe I saw that was similar, so apologies for not giving proper credit because I can’t remember where, although I think it was Mark Bittman. I’m not crazy about a traditional tabbouleh, but this was different and fresh, cool, and delicious!
Israeli couscous are small pearl-like grains of pasta that resemble uncooked tapioca. Unlike its smaller brother, it takes a little longer to cook and you cook it like pasta, not steam in the water. I buy it in bulk at the coop, but you may be able to find it in your local grocery store near the “regular” couscous. I bought some because these fine pearls were so pretty, but wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to cook. Turns out summer salads is it! The couscous, though, is not the star of this dish; if you have some fresh cucumbers and tomatoes from your garden or the farmer’s market, they will shine, with the couscous playing a supporting role.
Helpful Kitchen Hint: Cook the couscous in the morning when it’s cool. (It takes 10-12 minutes or so.) That way when you’re ready to make dinner, that step is done and you don’t have to wait for it to cool down! Add a little bit of oil to avoid sticking or just rinse with water before making the salad.
For those following a gluten-free diet, quinoa would be a great substitute. A salad like this is great because it is something you can do on the fly, measurements the way you want to do it, and you can add or subtract whatever you like! If you want more tomatoes, want to substitute zucchini instead of cucumbers, add some fresh corn or peas, or use less mint, have at it. This makes a great vegetarian hot weather main or side dish, or you can add some shrimp, chicken, or even tuna for some extra protein!
Israeli Couscous “Tabbouleh”
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 ¼ water
A tablespoon or so extra virgin olive oil
The juice of one lemon
Grape tomatoes, halved
½ cucumber, peeled, cut in half, seeded and diced
A couple of tablespoons shallots or red onion, diced and minced
1 can garbanzo beans
Salt and pepper
1. In a saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the couscous, and cook for about 10 minutes or so, or until done.
2. In a large mixing bowl, add the couscous and cool. Add the lemon juice, oil, vegetables, beans, cheese, mint leaves, and salt and pepper (and extra protein if desired). Chill for about 30 minutes, then serve!