Adding pearl couscous (also known, fittingly, as Israeli couscous) to classic Israeli salad makes it more substantial. The hallmark of an Israeli salad is that the characteristic vegetables — tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers — are diced very small, resulting in a nice blending of flavors. Pearl couscous added to the traditional mix makes it more substantial.
The one drawback to the all-vegetables version of Israeli salad is that as it stands, even for a short time, the salad becomes pooled in liquid from the combination of finely diced tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Making pearl couscous part of the salad takes care of that — the delicious liquid gets absorbed, making a sturdier (and more substantial) salad.
The recipe here calls for the cucumber, tomatoes, and peppers to be cut into small dice. In the authentic Israeli salad, these veggies are diced as small as 1/4 inch, but if you don’t have that much patience, 1/2 inch dice are fine.
Serving ideas: Make this salad part of a Middle Eastern-themed meal or mezze platter that includes hummus (see Homemade Hummus, 12 Easy & Delicious Ways if you’d like to DIY) and/or Baba Ghanouj, or as a side dish with falafel-stuffed pitas.
- 1 cup raw pearl couscous (Israeli couscous)
- 1 medium cucumber, quartered lengthwise, watery seeds trimmed away, and cut into small dice
- 3 medium ripe, flavorful tomatoes, cut into small dice
- 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into small dice
- 1 small onion, halved and sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of l/2 to 1 lemon, to taste
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh dill
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional additions (any or all)
- l/2 cup finely diced radish or turnip
- 2 scallions, minced
- 1 medium half-sour pickle, finely diced, or 1/3 cup chopped green olives
- Cook the pearl couscous according to package directions until al dente, then drain into a mesh strainer. Rinse under cold running water until cool, then drain very well.
- Meanwhile, combine cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, onion, olive oil, juice of 1/2 lemon, and the dill in a serving bowl.
- Add the cooked pearl couscous to the bowl and stir together. Taste and see if you’d like to add more lemon juice, then season with salt and pepper.
- Stir in the options you’d like to use, if any. Allow the salad to sit for a few minutes, then serve.
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Here are lots more easy vegan salads & sides.