Now that it’s warmer outside, I’ve been relying a lot on cool grain salads at lunchtime. So long as I prepare and then cool whatever grain I’m using ahead of time, assembling the salad takes only minutes. Grain salads satisfy me more than leafy or vegetable-based salads these days, and it’s fun to use up the various grains that are still hanging out in my pantry, even three months into quarantine (slow pantry emptying is part of living solo!).
This quick chickpea carrot couscous salad isn’t technically a grain salad, but it eats like one, and it’s also flavorful, filling, and fast. The couscous cooks nearly instantly, and once it’s ready, I can mix the ingredients right away, for a fast, warm meal. Or, I can make and cool the couscous a couple hours before lunchtime, as I’m doing my morning work, and then toss the ingredients together when I’m ready to eat. This takes more time, of course, but it’s so hands-off that it feels equally easy.
I like to use whole grain couscous here, just for the little bit of added nutrition, but regular couscous will work well if that’s what you have. Pearl couscous is also fine, though the texture of your salad will definitely be chewier! If you don’t have couscous at home, no problem. I’d gladly make this with either quinoa or millet, and I probably will at some point.
I kept the dressing light here, and I didn’t even bother whisking or mixing it before I added it to the salad. I just tossed everything together, and the dish wasn’t any worse off for it. You can enhance the flavor by adding more spices, some lemon or orange zest, a pinch of crushed red pepper for heat, or you could mix up the herbs (I use mint and parsley) and/or dried fruit (I used currants). This is similar to my anything goes pantry salad in that it stands up really well to your own tweaks and adjustments. But I can vouch for it just the way it is, because I’ve been enjoying the leftovers for a couple days!
Quick Chickpea Carrot Couscous Salad
- 1 cup dry whole wheat or regular couscous
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon fine salt, divided
- 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (1 14.5-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
- 1 cup grated carrots (about 2 medium or large carrots, peeled and grated)
- 3 tablespoons dried currants (substitute 1/4 cup golden or regular raisins)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Bring 1 1/4 cups water, the 1 teaspoon olive oil, and the 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil in a saucepan. When the water is boiling, stir in the couscous quickly, then cover the pot. Remove the pot from heat and allow it to stand for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork. If you’d like a cold (but less quick) salad, allow the couscous to cool for 15 minutes before transferring it to the fridge in an airtight storage container and allowing it to cool completely, about 1-2 hours. Alternately, you can skip refrigeration make the salad with warm couscous.
Mix the cooled or warm couscous and all remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Adjust salt, oil, vinegar/lemon, and herbs to taste. Serve!
Leftover salad will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
One of the nice things about this dish is that it’s versatile, and you can dress it up or down as much as you need to. It’s nice with a green vegetable as an accompaniment, with some hot or cold soup, with a slice of toast, or on its own, as a quick meal. You can also use the leftovers as a side dish at dinner time; I had some of it with my lemon pepper tempeh cubes and some greens the other night, and it was a really nice, well-rounded meal.
This week has flown by, and it’s been busy, and the sense of forward motion feels really good. I’ll be back around here soon, for the regular weekend roundup.
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