home cooked dinners by the season

Middle Eastern Greens and Couscous Salad

Middle Eastern Greens and Couscous Salad

My daughter brought home a take out salad a few weeks ago excited for me to try it because she thought it was amazing. Just one bite into it and I agreed. It reminded me of a salad recipe  I used in my summer salad cooking class. She wanted to make it at home so we’d have control over the freshness of the ingredients. The salad ingredients were the easy part. It was the dressing that was the challenge.

I remembered a salad dressing I’d had years ago at a restaurant in Pullman Washington while I was in college. The restaurant was called the Seasons and it was memorable in many, many ways that I won’t get into here. Except to say it’s location set back from the street up on a hill and accessible only by a long set of wooden stairs leading to the house was one of them. Their yogurt house salad dressing was another. It’s the inspiration for the dressing.

The flavor is a subtle combination of orange, honey and garlic with fragrant chopped basil and its body comes from plain yogurt, made more smooth and rich with olive oil. It’s an all around great dressing that you could make extra and keep in your refrigerator.

The couscous is different from what you may be familiar with. It’s called “Middle Eastern” or “Israeli” couscous. The pieces are bigger than traditional couscous and once cooked they are tender and more plump. I absolutely love its texture. Simmered briefly with a touch of curry powder and turmeric for color and flavor the couscous takes on this flavor. Once cooled it will stick together so you need to break it up with your fingers before tossing it in the salad. For the cooked chicken, I have given an easy instruction to pound it and then grill it, but you can use any method of your own to cook it.

Don’t be tempted to eliminate the currants because you may not have them in your pantry or they seem insignificant. They aren’t. The little bit of sweetness and the chewy bits of texture they add are essential.

Middle Eastern Greens and Couscous Salad
 
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • For the couscous:
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¾ cup Middle Eastern style (also called Israeli) couscous

  • Creamy Basil Dressing:
  • ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pinch cayenne pepper

  • 8 cups baby greens or thinly sliced Romaine lettuce
  • 3 cups shredded or thinly sliced cooked chicken breast (see note)
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
  • ½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • ⅓ cup currants
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced red onion
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Bring water, salt, curry powder and turmeric to a boil in a saucepan. Add couscous and stir; reduce heat to a low simmer and cook just until the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender, about 8 minutes. Remove couscous from the heat and spread out on a shallow dish; refrigerate until cooled, about 20 minutes (couscous will be stuck together at this point). Separate cooled couscous into smaller pieces and set aside.
  2. For the Creamy Basil Dressing, puree basil, garlic, vinegar, honey, orange juice and soy sauce in a food processor. Add yogurt and olive oil and process just until smooth; season with salt and cayenne pepper. Refrigerate until using.
  3. To assemble the salad, toss together the greens, couscous, chicken, apple, pecans, currants, red onion and Parmesan cheese. Add the dressing and toss to coat ingredients evenly.
Notes
For 3 cups cooked chicken:
Pound ¾ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts to ½-inch thickness.
Preheat a grill or a grill pan on the range to medium high heat; season chicken with kosher salt and pepper and brush lightly with olive or vegetable oil. Grill chicken just until cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from grill; allowing to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled.

 


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