With the summer at its peak, its the same story almost everywhere. We want to stay away from hot and heavy stuff and just enjoy something light and refreshing. What could be more refreshing than the tart bite of something citrus? I like to use lemons, limes and oranges a lot in almost all my food, especially in a salad.
Dressings made of lemon or orange are more appealing to me than heavy oil or mayo based ones. I also had a big pack of couscous from the local Mediterranean shop which you must surely visit once if you live in the area. Although its more popular amongst the Asian population for the
halal meat that it sells, it has a small but eclectic grocery section, and also a huge section of carryout kind of food. The hummus and baba ghanjouj are great and fresh tasting, they have a variety of fatayars(pies), sweets like baklava, grape leaves et al. They carry a lot of spices and spice mixes at really economical prices. Also the couscous, bulgur, coffees, tahini etc.etc.
One tasty find I have made here is a kind of pepper spread that will be on another post, since it deserves its own. We also stumbled on their stock of pita bread which is something you will not find in a super market. You have pitas in several sizes, ranging from your small one to
12 inch or 14 inch ones, white, wheat, fresh and economical.
OK, coming back to the point ( yes, there is one) after this long detour, I generally make something warm out of couscous, more like upama or pulao and also eat it hot. But keeping the minimum cooking criteria in mind, I decided to try and make a salad. With the Mediterranean theme fresh in my mind, the ingredients kind of suggested themselves – cucumbers, olives, red peppers, onion, chick peas for some substance, some orange element and a simple dressing with orange juice and a touch of cumin.
The recipe for Orange Couscous Salad is as follows –
Orange Couscous salad is a light summer salad with orange dressing, crunchy, colorful and flavorful minus the fat.
- 1 cup dry couscous any variety
- 1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed, or 1 cup chickpeas boiled at home
- 1 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1 cup chopped cucumber
- 1/2 cup chopped Spanish olives
- 1/2 cup chopped red pepper ( or any colour pepper)
- 1 cup mandarin oranges
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2-3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp orange zest
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- salt and sugar to taste
- 2 Tbsp pinoli or almonds ( optional)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil (optional)
- Boil the couscous according to package directions and set aside. This can be done in advance. Make sure the couscous is not very soggy now since the dressing will moisten it again later
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all the vegetables - onions, cucumber, pepper, olives, mandarin oranges. Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas to make sure all the gooey liquid is gone. Add the chickpeas to the bowl.
- Add the couscous to the bowl. Make sure its cool by now since we want the veggies to remain crispy and fresh. Adding hot or warm couscous will slightly cook the vegetables which we do not want here. Lightly mix everything once.
- Now for the dressing. In a seperate bowl or cup, mix the fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh lemon juice. Make an effort to use fresh juices only. This will make a big difference in the taste. Add the paprika, cumin, orange zest, salt to taste, and little dash of sugar or honey to balance the sourness.
- Add the olive oil. Use Extra virgin oil for a better flavour. Now you can use as much oil as you want here. You can keep streaming oil food tv style( no offense to any great chefs) until you get a thick emulsion, or you can just use maybe a tbspn as I do to get the flavour from the oil, but not enough to affect any other metrics. Beat together all the ingredients till they are combined together and add this to the bowl.
- Add the dressing in two or three batches, depending on how dry or soft you like your couscous. I kept it slightly on the soggy side earlier, but it was all absorbed by the next day. I forgot to mention above -- this salad gets better over time. The flavours concentrate more and more, so remember that while adding your spices.
- Add some of the chopped cilantro, keeping some for garnish. Now you can thoroughly mix everything together, ensuring that the dressing goes through the salad.
- You can add a few almonds or pine nuts. I did not add them this time.
- Refrigerate for a few hours, if you are not already salivating.
We ate this salad by itself as a meal, and ate leftovers as a filling for pitas with some lettuce and tomatoes. This was a very satisfying meal, and the taste intensified the next day.
The crunch and freshness of the cucumber, the saltiness of the olives, the slight spice of the onion, and the juicy orange wedges intermingling, this orange based summer couscous salad is a perfect treat that can be made in a short time.
The fresh citrus dressing gives this a clean flavor and keeps things light.