Saturday, May 19, 2012

Perfect for Summer Entertaining! Fruit 'n Feta Israeli Couscous Salad with Meyer Lemon-Maple Vinaigrette...Featuring Rice Select Pearl Couscous

Happy is crazy-busy for a few more days, so I'm off to work in just a bit. But...I have a fantastic recipe to share with y'all first!! As most of you know, I live in San Antonio...but I grew up in Alvin, a small town between Houston and Galveston. It was a great place to grow up, and most of my family still lives there. Alvin’s main claim to fame is that baseball legend Nolan Ryan grew up there...and graduated from the same high school that I did. Alvin is also known for being the home base of Rice Select. I’m a huge fan of their Texmati rice...similar to basmati, this nutty rice smells like popcorn when it cooks. They were nice enough to send a hometown girl a box full of their products to create some fun recipes over the coming weeks. Today is my first recipe that will feature their products.

Between now and Memorial Day, I’ll be sharing recipes that are perfect additions to your summer outdoor celebrations. I’m going to kick off this series of posts with an Israeli couscous salad that’s ideal for potlucks or picnics. It’s a bit different from the usual side dishes like potato salad, and it features on of Rice Select’s non-rice products: tri-color pearl couscous. This Fruit ‘n Feta Israeli Couscous Salad with Meyer Lemon-Maple Vinaigrette is unique and totally delish. If you've never had pearl couscous...also know as Israeli couscous. I hope that you'll love this versatile grain as much as I do. The pasta pearls are larger than regular couscous and cook up into tiny pearls of pasta.

This colorful salad is my riff on a Giada de Laurentiis recipe...I loved the original recipe, but decided to play around with it a bit. I subbed tri-color couscous for regular, for starters. Then, to the original recipe’s Granny Smith apple, craisins, and toasted almonds...I added some plump golden raisins and creamy-salty feta. I love feta in my strawberry-field green salad, so I thought it would match really well here too! I modified the flavorful vinaigrette by using Meyer lemon juice in place of balsamic vinegar to echo the fruity flavors in the salad. This dish comes together in minutes, and is best prepared the night before or morning of when you plan to serve it.

Fruit 'n Feta Israeli Couscous Salad 
Meyer Lemon-Maple Vinaigrette
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis

Step 1:  Add 2 tbs. olive oil to a large non-stick skillet over med-high heat, and heat for five minutes. Add 2 cups Rice Select tri-color pearl couscous and toast for 2-3 minutes, until it becomes fragrant and toasted. Add 4 cups chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until all of the stock is absorbed -- about 15 minutes. Note: to make this dish veg-friendly, all you have to do is sub in vegetable stock! When the couscous has absorbed all the chicken stock, place it in a large bowl to cool for about 30 minutes.

Step 2:  Make the vinaigrette by combining the following ingredients in a measuring cup: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice (about one large lemon), 3 tbs. maple syrup, 1 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Whisk well to combine and set aside until you assemble the salad.

Step 3:  When the couscous has cooled, add the following ingredients to the bowl: one diced Granny Smith apple (skin on), 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup golden raisins, 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds, 1/2 cup crumbled feta, 1 tsp. finely chopped rosemary, 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, and the reserved vinaigrette. Toss gently to combine so you don't break up the feta too much. Refrigerate at least two hours to allow the flavors to combine before serving.

This salad is sort of different...and really yummy! The couscous had a nice savory flavor thanks to the chicken stock. This provided a really nice base flavor for the rest of the salad. The sweetness of the dried fruits is cut by the tart punch of the green apple and the salty tang of the feta. The dressing is sweet-tart, and combines nicely with the other ingredients. Don’t leave out the almonds...they provide a really nice crunchy contrast to other textures and flavors in this dish. 

I was pleasantly surprised that the apple did NOT turn brown, even the next day! The dressing is light and flavorful...the only thing I would do differently next time is double the vinaigrette to get more-pronounced citrus flavor. I served this refreshing pasta salad with fresh corn on the cob and grilled pork chops for a wonderful al fresco dinner for two. And don’t discount the eye appeal of this dish either...I’m a sucker for colorful dishes, and this one really delivers!

Disclosure: Rice Select sent me some of their Tri-Color Pearled Couscous to cook with in my kitchen and share my opinions with you. As always, my thoughts on this featured product are my own.

1 comment:

  1. This looks amazing!!!

    I love couscous but can't always find it here! I've never seen the tri-color couscous before. But it's beautiful!


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