Summer Sides: Israeli Couscous

Instead of giving you a specific recipe this time around, I'm going to sing the praises of a great summer salad ingredient: Israeli couscous. Couscous is a North African dish of small steamed balls of semolina. Israeli couscous puts those little steamed balls of semolina on steroids and makes them both bigger and just a bit chewier. The result is a very pasta-like lentil-sized ball of yum that's ready to accept all manner of flavorings. No wonder it's an amazing salad staple.

How do you use Israeli couscous in salads? I love making it in the moments between other happenings. While I'm doing the dishes or even putting away groceries. It takes about 10 minutes to cook and then is the perfect time to include any flavorings, as the stuff will simply soak it up and make it part of what it brings to a salad party. I like using whatever broth I have on hand and will always add a little seasoning to the mix. Even a pat of butter or a drizzle of nice oil goes a long way. When the couscous is done cooking, I keep it sealed in the refrigerator and toss some with whatever fresh veggies, cheese, olives, etc. I have on hand to make a salad. Dressings are usually a bit of oil, vinegar, and maybe some fruit juice (think lemon or lime, but orange or even berry can be great, too). Toss it all together and voilà, that's one head-turning salad you've got there.

One of the things I love best about making salads this way is that they are packed with flavors without a lot of fat. Beyond that, they can sit out for hours at a picnic or potluck (got a few of those happening this month, do you?) without presenting any safety issue. Can't say that of those creamy tater salads, can ya? So yeah, I stock Israeli couscous year round, but summer months will never see my pantry without it. I can even add shredded chicken or tuna to one of these salads and make an instant main dish salad for a light dinner or quick lunch. What's not to love?

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