Healthy Mediterranean-Fusion Cooking: Israeli Couscous Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette

Vacations are synonymous with food, eating, dining out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its a time when you give yourself the leeway to spoil yourself, without worrying about the consequences. It has been a week since I have been here in San Francisco and my culinary adventures have escalated, especially since its sort of a mini family reunion. Our days revolve around food and planning our next culinary escapade. By the end of the week, we had gone through most of the cuisines of the world, from Mexican to Thai to Persian to South-Asian to French. Its been a quick whirlwind tour of all the cuisines of the world. However, by the end of the week our bodies needed to detox, take a break and devour some delicious yet healthy meals. It was then that my sister decided to make her signature Israeli couscous salad. I had always wanted to try it, but somehow could not find Israeli couscous in Kuala Lumpur. Hence, had to travel half way across the world to taste it.

Israeli Couscous Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette

I always associate couscous with fine semolina granules that are usually eaten with Moroccan chicken tagine. However, Israeli couscous was very different in appearance and taste. Known as Ptitim in Israel, its inception came about during the days of austerity in Israel. It was developed by using hard wheat flour which was then roasted in the oven and became a substitute for rice which was scarce in those days. Ever since then, it has seeped into the world of epicurean’s looking for new ingredients to use in their cooking. Unlike normal couscous, Israeli couscous is made from wheat and shaped into small round pellets, akin to the Italian orzo. Hence, not much is required to add flavor to it, as it has a taste of its own. My sister, being a great cook herself, added her flair to the Israeli couscous by using the flavors of the Mediterranean. And indeed, it was a delicious way to detox.

Israeli Couscous Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1/2 cup red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cucumber, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup black olives, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Toasted pine nuts

Preparation:

  • Boil one cup of Israeli couscous in water for about 12 minutes
  • Drain the couscous and place in a salad bowl
  • Add all the chopped vegetables along with mint leaves and feta cheese
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper
  • In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice
  • Slowly add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to cover the ingredients completely
  • Garnish with a generous portion of pine nuts before serving

Israeli Couscous Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette

Light, flavorful and healthy, is the best way to describe this salad. The light lemon-balsamic vinaigrette adds a Mediterranean tinge to this wonderful salad. Its the addition of the pine nuts that creates a nutty flavor and that crunch that makes the salad complete. Its a great way to have a healthy meal, even my 5 year old niece thoroughly enjoyed it, taking it with her as her school lunch the next day. There is nothing like giving your system a break while on vacation or otherwise. Hence, I most probably will be taking a few boxes of Israeli couscous back with me to prepare this recipe on my own too.

Israeli Couscous Salad with a Balsamic Vinaigrette