Summery Couscous, Cherry Tomato and Chickpea Salad
June 19, 2021
Summer food cravings can be quite a paradoxical affair. On one hand, you crave for something refreshingly moreish and light to fuel yourself against the sweltering heat, but at the same time, the mere thought of having to stand in the kitchen, next to the bubbling, humid stockpot quells those cravings. What do you do in the heat of such moments? For me, I turn to couscous, cherry tomato and chickpea salad.
Although at first glance, couscous looks like a grain, it is in fact closer to pasta. Made from crushed durum wheat, this Moroccan cousin of pasta, is quick and easy to make, comfortably filling and unbelievably versatile. For this recipe, I like to start with a base of Israeli couscous, feta, raw and roasted cherry tomatoes, and chickpeas. Then, amp up the flavor with some fresh basil and thyme, and finally bind them all together with a spicy-acidic, smoked paprika and lemon dressing.
This recipe is vividly customizable. Taste and season at every step of the salad, till you get your perfect blend of fresh, zesty, nutty-crunchy goodness.
By the end of summer, when all salad recipes are tried and exhausted, try this nourishingly balanced couscous, chickpea and cherry tomato delight which is richer than a regular summer salad, but just as easy to make. Shall I compare thee to a summer salad? But thou art more lovely and scrumptiously filling.
3 Key Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Couscous:
Using Plain Water: Couscous by its own has a very subtle flavor and absorbs flavors from whatever liquid it is cooked in. So, if you cook it in plain water, you will miss out on a ton of flavors. Ideally, any kind of stock works well. But if you don’t have stock at hand, sauté some onion, ginger and garlic in a pan, add water and boil for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and cook the couscous in that liquid.
Not fluffing the couscous after it’s cooked: If couscous isn’t fluffed they’re more likely to stick together into little gummy balls. To fluff couscous, line a flat dish or baking tray with some foil paper. Then add cooked couscous on top and using a fork, gently spread and separate them.
Serving cold couscous: If you have prepped ahead and refrigerated couscous overnight, then allow it to return to room temperature before adding it to the salad. Cold couscous is hard and will give the salad a bite-y texture.
Making Couscous, Cherry Tomato and Chickpea Salad:
Make the Spiced Paprika and Lemon Dressing:
For the dressing, in a small bowl take lemon juice, minced garlic, smoked paprika powder, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined and keep aside.
Cook the Couscous:
In a large saucepan or stockpot, bring stock or well salted cooking liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat, add couscous and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until couscous grains swell up. Then line them on a flat tray, and gently spread them apart with a fork to ensure no lumps are formed.
Roast Half the Cherry Tomatoes:
Heat olive oil in a skillet, over medium heat. Add sliced cherry tomatoes. Saute for 4 to 5 minutes, till cherry tomatoes are tender and lightly charred.
Assemble Couscous, Cherry Tomato and Chickpea Salad:
To assemble the salad, in a large bowl take cooked and fluffed couscous, add cucumber, feta, chickpeas, roasted and raw cherry tomatoes. Add basil and thyme. Pour dressing on top and mix gently, until well combined. Top off with some more fresh basil and serve!