Cous Cous is a food with versatile combination possibilities equaling any type of pasta and its approximate ten minute preparation makes it the perfect choice for a broad range of food occasions, including those impromptu. I have prepared Cous Cous Salads for the Team Family Tailgate, served it on the Buffet at Holiday Events, and last week it made a perfect spur of the moment luncheon dish for a neighborhood friend stopping by for a visit. One key tip on dressing your Cous Cous Salad, similar to using orzo, is that the dressing absorbs into the grain so if you are making it in advance you will want to have a little extra dressing to freshen up your salad at the time of serving.
Besides its rapid cooking and flavor combination, this salad works well because you can keep all of these ingredients in your pantry and put it together at a moments notice. Most every supermarket now carries broad choices of dried fruits easily stocked for a varied selection of uses. For this salad I used Tart Cherries, Apricots and Cranberries along with sliced almonds that I toasted on the range before incorporating into the mixture. You could alternatively use raisins or mango or any other dried fruit desired. Adding cinnamon to the Cous Cous gives a little more complexity and flavor to the dish. I had a couple of large naval oranges in the refrigerator, for both the rind and the juice that complemented well with the salad ingredients. Next, I tossed some baby lettuces, including freesia with remaining orange juice and a little bit of olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper.
The small amount of olive oil mixed together with the orange juice gives some substance to the juice creating a dressing without added vinegar as in a vinaigrette. I also had a pomegranate in the refrigerator as my Grandson, the J-Dude loves to eat these. Since pomegranates are currently so popular in culinary use these days and look so pretty scattered on dishes, I whacked some of these onto the salad too, and in all this made a light and quick, yet lovely colorful luncheon dish.
If you have advance planning for your luncheon and plan to make a Cous Cous salad, you might even want to add an extra side dish such as a few pieces of shrimp, a slice of salmon or chicken breast. Most everything goes well with Cous Cous, including beef and lamb kabobs, the latter likely its common origin of use combination.
With the hectic holiday season upon us, we can all use some quick and easy dishes to put together for those special in our lives, yet something distinctive that shows how much we truly care. I hope this Cous Cous, Dried Fruits, Toasted Almonds, Orange Dressing is one that will work well for you too!
- 2 cups cooked couscous
- 1 cup dried tart cherries, rough chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 12 dried apricots, thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 1/2 teaspoon or a little more of ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
- 2 large navel oranges, cut in half, juiced and strained
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 very small bunches of baby lettuces, a couple of handfuls per person, torn into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- pomegranate seeds (optional) for topping lightly across the top of the salad
- Prepare Couscous according to package directions, let sit covered ten minutes, fluff with a fork then transfer to a serving style dish. Whisk 3 tablespoons olive oil together with orange juice, season with salt and pepper. To the Cous Cous gently stir in dried cherries, cranberries, apricots, toasted almonds and grated orange rind. Sprinkle in cinnamon,stir, then add in a quarter cup of seasoned dressing, using a fork, blend gently throughout, adding in a bit more dressing if needed, sprinkle in salt and pepper, check seasoning. Toss baby lettuce with about a half cup of the remaining orange olive oil dressing, this will leave you just a little extra dressing to later freshen up your couscous salad, or add to baby lettuces. At serving time place a couple handfuls of dressed baby lettuce into each bowl, top with couscous salad. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.