I have really terrible eating habits for someone whose career revolves around food.
I literally write about food every single day. I take photos of food, I style food, I develop recipes and share information about food. But I struggle with eating properly.
When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is turn on my computer. I always intend to skim my Facebook feed and emails before I eat breakfast, but I end up sitting there for at least an hour. Then when I finally get up to eat, I grab a bowl of cereal, or a yogurt cup, and head back to my computer.
I often forget to eat lunch too… This usually results in me either snacking on junk before dinner, or eating way too much dinner, to compensate for the fact that I’ve basically starved myself all day.
Acknowledging a problem is the first step to overcoming it, right? So I feel like if I’m admitting my issues, it means that I can work on fixing them.
Right now I’m trying to focus on improving my food choices. For me, this means adding more fruits and veggies to my carb and protein loaded diet. I’m not about to start cutting carbs (so not happening!), but eating more produce is never a bad idea.
To get started, I visited my great-aunt and asked her to share her couscous salad recipe with me. It’s loaded with fresh raw vegetables, and is tasty on its own or as a side dish.
Couscous is the name for tiny granules of steamed and dried durum wheat semolina. It’s extremely easy to cook (all you need is a kettle!), and bland in flavour. I usually buy the Casbah brand from WalMart, but you can find it at most grocery stores (in the aisle with rice).
Previously, the only couscous dish I would make was one with lemon, red chile and parsley from Jamie Oliver’s Meal in Minutes cookbook. I had otherwise written couscous off as too bland, and never really experimented with it. This couscous salad is definitely not bland!
First, the couscous is cooked with salt, black pepper, cinnamon and turmeric. This creates a flavourful base for the salad. Then there’s all of the natural flavours of the finely diced vegetables, which get a burst of fresh green flavour from parsley. But the real showstopper is the garlicky, tangy dressing with smoked paprika and cumin.
The flavour of this acidic dressing is what makes this salad interesting. I don’t think you’d like this couscous salad with a generic store-bought dressing.
I admit that this salad does require a lot of ingredients, and a lot of prep, which usually isn’t my style. It’s worth it though.
If you don’t usually cook with these spices, consider buying a small bottle (or package). Spices last for a long time, and you will probably be able to use up a small amount before it loses its freshness.
You can be flexible with the vegetables as well. Replace black olives with green ones, use only one type of bell pepper, chop up a large tomato instead of using cherry tomatoes. Whatever works for you!
I used curly parsley, but you can use flat-leaf instead if you prefer. Although curly parsley is actually nice to eat if you chop it really finely.
This couscous salad is perfect for summer, because you don’t need to turn your stove on to make it! Just pour 1 cup of couscous into a bowl, top with 1 cup of boiling water, cover with a plate of a pot lid, and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes (until the water is absorbed). That’s it!
If you have your ingredients pre-chopped, and your dressing already mixed, it can be a fast weeknight dinner. You could even add chopped leftover chicken to make it more filling.
You could make this the night before to take to work for lunch, but I wouldn’t leave it for more than 24 hours, because the vegetables lose their satisfying crunch.
- 1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 cup boiling water
- 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 ½ tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 ½ tsp minced garlic
- 1 tsp honey
- ⅛ tsp smoked paprika
- ¼ tsp ground cumin
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 19 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 small yellow sweet pepper, finely diced
- 1 small red sweet pepper, finely diced
- 1 small orange sweet pepper, finely diced
- ½ of a zucchini, finely diced
- ½ cucumber, finely diced
- 2 tbsp red onion, finely diced
- 1 cup of grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- ⅓ cup Kalamata olives, cut into pieces
- ⅓ cup dried cranberries, optional
- ⅓ cup parsley, finely minced
- Pour couscous in a large bowl. Add salt, black pepper, cinnamon and turmeric. Stir to combine.
- Pour in boiling water, stir, then cover tightly with a pot lid or plate. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, or until water has been absorbed.
- When done cooking, fluffy with a fork and set aside.
- Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl, then adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside.
- Add chickpeas, vegetables and cranberries to the cooked couscous. Stir to combine.
- Add a small amount of dressing to the salad and taste it. Keep adding dressing until it tastes good to you.*
- Stir in chopped parsley and serve.
Chop your ingredients, make the dressing, and store in the fridge until ready to eat. Then simply cook the couscous, and combine your prepared ingredients for a quick weeknight dinner.
Refrigerate immediately, eat within 24 hours for best texture.
What’s your favourite couscous dish? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to get some more ideas!