Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Couscous Salad with Spinach, Feta, Cherry Tomatoes and Herbs

Sometimes I'm all over the perfect dish for the season, anticipating things a few weeks out. These past few weeks I've been chafing at the bit with a lovely concord grape recipe, calling a circuit of grocery stores every few days to ask Are they in yet? How about tomorrow? Maybe Monday? I'm surprised the produce departments keep answering the phone. But other times, well -- not so much. And so, as the cold and windy rains roll into Portland, I present to you the perfect picnic dish. On the bright side, it'll still be good for Autumnal potlucks.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a sucker for the combination of spinach and feta. But instead of a warm and uber-cheesy casserole, this is a light, herb-studded couscous salad (even healthier if you, like me, go with whole wheat couscous), with bright and juicy cherry tomatoes offsetting the small amount of briny feta. The spinach is just slightly wilted enough to be manageable and allow you to stuff copious amounts of it into the finished salad (using the residual heat of the couscous along with the old Mediterranean trick of rubbing it with salt), but it's still bright green and fresh-tasting. Thanks to a sweep at the farmer's market I used a combination of fresh basil, dill, parsley and mint, but it would be good with a few handfuls of whatever fresh herbs you have.

And speaking of things you think of just in the nick of time, here's an article about matzo ball soup, in honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that begins tomorrow night. Perhaps getting a bit more on top of things will be one of my resolutions.

Couscous Salad with Spinach, Feta, Cherry Tomatoes and Herbs

makes a sizable picnic or potluck contribution, or serves ~6 as a light main dish

2 1/2  cups water or broth
2 cups whole wheat couscous
~1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 bunch spinach, washed and chopped fairly small
3 scallions, thinly-sliced
1 large handful fresh dill, chopped
1 large handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 large handful fresh mint, chopped
1 small handful fresh mint, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
scant 1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (I'm currently obsessed with sungolds), halved, or quartered if they're large
salt and pepper

Heat the water or broth (salt it if you're using water) to a boil in a pot. Add the couscous and a dollop of olive oil. Stir and bring it back to a boil, then turn off the flame and let sit, covered, for five minutes.

While the couscous is sitting, place the spinach in a large bowl. Sprinkle it with a bit of salt, then scrunch it in your hands to distribute the salt and cause the spinach to wilt slightly. Top with the scallions.

When the couscous is done, fluff it with a fork, and tip it on top of the spinach and the scallions, letting the heat of the couscous soften the greens. Let sit a few minutes while you chop the remaining fresh herbs.

After the couscous has sat for a few minutes, add the remaining herbs along with the remaining olive oil and the lemon juice. Toss, mixing the ingredients well (which will also cool off the couscous a bit). Add the feta, cherry tomatoes and a few grinds of pepper, and toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings and olive oil/lemon juice balance as needed. Serve warm or cold.


  1. This salad looks so delicious - I can imagine how fresh & flavourful it is with all those herbs. And yes to sun golds!!

  2. @kickpleat aren't sungolds amazing? They've ruined me for any other cherry tomato.