My Israeli Couscous Almandine is a very popular dish for a potluck or large gathering. I designed this salad so that it would stand up to perhaps hours at room temperature—so no ingredients that would wilt, get mushy, or become unsafe to eat. Wife Jan is on the Noom Program, so she objects to dense starchy dishes. To please her, I make a salad that is mostly vegetables and fruit with just a bit of Israeli couscous.
I decided to make some changes for my birthday dinner. I am making cumin lamb and I wanted a salad that would pair well with a generally Middle Eastern main dish. I chose to add tomato to the cucumber, as well as fresh mint and cilantro—both very Middle Eastern combinations. Finally, I decided to switch out the almonds or pine nuts that I used before with pistachios.
Note: Half a can of broth is an inconvenient measure. I decided to use Better than Bouillon, chicken base as a substitute. If you do this leave out any additional salt and do not use too much—1 teaspoon per cup of liquid. Better than Bouillon pastes tend to be extremely salty. Before Covid most stores carried the low sodium versions—while these were still overly salty—now-a-days, you can only buy these lower salt versions on-line.
I have received a comment on one of my earlier versions of this recipe about the difficulty of finding some of the ingredients in some places. This is not really a problem, because this is really a concept salad. Nothing about it is fixed in stone and you may use what ever you have on hand. The Israeli couscous could be replaced with orzo and you may use whatever fruits and nuts that you have on hand. What is important in this salad is having an interesting variety of colors, shapes, tastes and textures, after that anything goes.
After Dinner Note: This was apparently the best variation of this salad yet. There was barely a single serving left in the bowl at the end of the meal.
Karl’s Israeli Couscous Salad with Pistachios
1 Tbs. butter (or olive oil for Vegan)
½ cups Israeli Couscous
½ can (14.5 oz.) low sodium chicken broth (vegetable broth for Vegan)
See comments in Step 2, about BtB broth before opening
a new can of broth.
½ tsp. oregano
1 bay leaf
⅛ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. salt (omit if using BtB paste)
1½ Tbs. olive oil
1½ Tbs. lemon juice
¾ Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
½ tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 clove garlic, cracked
Pinch Kosher salt
¼ cup pistachios, shelled and toasted
1 Beefsteak tomato, deseeded and diced
1 Persian cucumber, role cut
⅓ cup red bell pepper, ½ inch dice
⅓ cup yellow bell pepper, ½ inch dice
10 dried black mission figs, stemmed and quartered
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 small bunch fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1. Melt the butter in a medium pan and toast the couscous over a medium heat until many of the pasta pearls are starting to brown.
Tip: You want to start the couscous early so that it can cool completely before you add the vegetables and fruit.
Note: Do not skip this toasting step. The last two times I made this dish, I did not toast the couscous and, while the salad was still quite good, the pasta came out sticky and hard to separate into individual pearls. The toasting in butter seals in the surface starch of the pasta and prevents that starch from thickening the cooking liquid.
2. Add the broth, oregano, bay leaf, and pepper.
Tip: Half a can of broth is an inconvenient measure. You may use Better than Bouillon, chicken base as a substitute. If you do this leave out any additional salt and do not use too much—no more than teaspoon per cup of liquid.
3. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the pasta is al dente and the liquid has been absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
Tip: After the pasta is cooked you can set the pot in the refrigerator to speed the cooling process.
Note: Do not under cook the pasta. Test the pearls and continue cooking until the hard centers of the large couscous pearls are completely soft.
4. Put the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, pepper, cracked clove of garlic and salt in a small lidded jar and shake to combine.
Tip: You should make this as soon as you can, so that the flavors can meld. Shake the jar occasionally to keep the dressing emulsified.
Note: Leave out the salt if, using Better than Bouillon, chicken base.
5. In a small dry skillet toast the pistachios until lightly browned.
Tip: Set the pine nuts aside to cool.
Note: Remove the nuts from the pan, so that the residual heat does not burn them.
6. Measure and chop the vegetables, greens, and fruit into small bite-sized pieces.
7. Add the vegetables, fruit, and dressing to the couscous and toss to coat and combine.
Tip: You may assemble the salad up to this point half an hour before serving, but do not add the greens and nuts until just before serving as the greens may wilt and the nuts may get soft if mixed with the dressing too early.
Note: Remove the clove of garlic from the dressing before adding it to the salad.
8. Add the greens and nuts and toss to coat and combine them into the salad.
9. Let the salad meld for 5 minute and serve slightly chilled.