Today, remarkably, I realized that I no longer desperately need to eat warm, comforting foods at every meal. The punishing winter we had this year in the northeast seems to be over, and while until very recently we were plagued by chilly rains, things are warming up. For this season, I love making salad-like dishes that can be served hot, or room temperature, or even cold, as a salad. This post is not so much a recipe as a reminder that these dishes exist, and that they are now seasonally appropriate!
Israeli couscous, which is not like North African couscous—it is actually made of roasted, tiny round pellets of pasta—is great for this type of preparation. It absorbs all sorts of flavors and in spring, when we have bountiful herbs and spring onions, it makes a terrific side dish at any temperature. You can mix and match the herbs. I happened to receive a fresh shipment from Ty’s mom in Maryland, and so we had quite a variety on hand. If you only have chives, or parsley, or cilantro, I think all of these would thrive quite happily in this dish.
I recommend taking this couscous to potlucks and picnics, because I really do think it’s probably at its best when it reaches room temperature. It only gets better as it sits there on the counter, while you rally the troops, load the car, make sure the burners are off and check twice that you have your cell phone. Your friends will be delighted when you show up with this springy dish in tow. They are lucky to know you. Really, they are.
Israeli couscous with herbs
- 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt for the pot, plus more for seasoning
- 3 tablespoons chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons fresh minced oregano
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced mint
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice or a clear vinegar like white balsamic or champagne
- coarsely ground pepper
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add couscous and salt. Cover and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Taste the pasta to see if it is cooked. When it’s cooked, if all water is not absorbed by couscous, drain it in a colander.
2. Return the couscous to the pot. Add herbs, raisins, oil, lemon juice or vinegar, and a few grinds of pepper to the pot. Stir carefully to fully incorporate ingredients. Taste for salt and pepper add more if needed.
3. Trust your taste with this recipe; if the dish requires more brightness, add a little more vinegar, or salt. I find the pasta, as it cools, absorbs these flavors haphazardly. Serve hot or room temperature. If serving room temperature, taste again before serving to check the balance of the flavors.