Thursday, July 7, 2011

Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Last Sunday, Austin and I had attended a pre-Independence celebration at one of his coworker's houses on Lake Gaston. About an hour before we were supposed to leave, we still hadn't made anything and our fridge was looking pretty barren. 'Twas make-it-work time. In less than half an hour I took all the veggies we had left, some basil, and a few pantry items, threw them together and voilá, a couscous salad emerged. We both tried it and deemed potluck worthy, but I wasn't sure how well it would go over with the burger-loving guests. 

The other vegetarian party goers totally approved of the salad, which I had kind of expected. After all, they probably thought they'd be the only ones bringing plant-based food. I was shocked though when another guest, who I'm pretty sure isn't big into salads or couscous, started raving about the salad. He became my salad's PR rep, making rounds and telling everyone "Hey, have you tried the couscous salad? You have to, man, it's delicious!!". It was hilarious and, of course, really flattering.

Sorry I didn't share this with you all in time for the 4th, but I hopefully you'll be able to come up with an excuse to make it soon.

Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad with Basil Vinaigrette 
Makes 6 servings
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat (or regular) Israeli couscous
  • Scant 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth (you can use water in a pinch, but broth gives the couscous better flavor)
  • 1 cup packed basil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium summer squash, spiralized into ribbons or cut into strips using a vegetable peeler
  • 1 small zucchini, spiralized into ribbons or cut into strips using a vegetable peeler
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium red onion, quartered and thinly sliced (I just realized I have a pretty thick slice of onion in the picture. Oh well, do as I suggest, not as I do.)
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can great northern, canellini, or pinto beans
  • Optional: Torn basil for garish
1.  Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's toasted which should take 5-7 minutes. Pour in the vegetable broth or water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 6 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let rest covered for about 10 minutes. Whatever Israeli couscous you buy may need more or less liquid and its cooking time may vary from what I've indicated, so make sure you follow the instructions on the package.

2.  While the couscous is cooking, prep your veggies and make the dressing. In a mini food processor (or a regular one, if that's all you've got) combine the the remaining olive oil, basil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Combine the squash, zucchini, tomatoes, onion and beans in a large mixing or salad bowl. Fluff up the couscous with a fork and add it to the bowl. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat evenly. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with torn basil if you'd like.

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