Memorial Day Pasta Salad
A few weeks ago I had a small BBQ with some friends. I didn’t make anything fancy. I grilled a few beer can chickens and, almost on a whim, tossed together this Israeli Couscous Salad.
I didn’t think much of it and didn’t even photograph it to post.
During dinner, people went stark raving mad for this salad so I figured I better put it down on the Internets. One of my friends thought he could eat the entire bowl all by himself.
I almost asked him to try, but then everyone else would’ve had to go without the salad!
Anyway, it’s really the perfect side dish for a BBQ meal and perfect for Memorial Day weekend!
1) Cook couscous according to package. When it’s tender, drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
2) Cut zucchini and squash into 1/4-inch thick slices longwise. Thicker is better than thinner. Cut the red pepper into quarters. Toss vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and a big pinch of salt and pepper.
3) For dressing, whisk together 1/3 cup of olive oil with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and a drizzle of honey.
4) Preheat grill to high heat. Once hot, grill veggies for 3-4 minutes per side until they have nice grill marks.
5) Remove vegetables from grill and chop them into large chunks.
6) Toss cooked couscous with a few spoonfuls of dressing. Then fold in grilled vegetables followed by cubed mozzarella and slivered basil. Drizzle over remaining dressing and taste the salad. Season it as needed with salt and pepper.
You can easily make this salad in advance and store it in the fridge until needed. It only gets better after chilling for a few hours.
Israeli Couscous Salad
You could use a wide range of veggies for this salad, but I recommend finding at least one good pepper (red, yellow, or orange) and then an assortment of fresh squash and zucchini.
Slice all the vegetables in thick pieces so they grill nicely and toss them with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Get your grill blazing hot and grill the vegetables for just a few minutes per side. You want nice char on them, but you also don’t want to over-cook them or they will just turn into a soggy mess.
When they come off the grill, they should have a tiny bite to them still, but nice grill marks always look good.
It’s kind of a subtle balance, but if you start with a super-hot grill, you’ll be fine.
Finishing the Salad
There’s not much else to this Israeli Couscous Salad which is why it’s so amazing. Your work-to-flavor ratio is pretty great.
I recommend making a quick dressing with some olive oil, balsamic, honey, salt, and pepper. You don’t need a ton of it. It should be a light coating on the salad.
When it comes to the pasta for the salad, Israeli couscous is the best.
I wouldn’t use normal couscous (too fine), but you could use any other small pasta.
This stuff really is the best though for salads like this. It’s quick to make and difficult to over-cook. When it’s done boiling, drain it and rinse it with cold water so it stops cooking.
Then just pile in your grilled veg. Be sure to chop them really roughly. You want large chunks of veggies in the salad.
Then drizzle on your dressing (start with half of it) and add in the cubed fresh mozzarella and slivered basil.
The cheese and basil give the Israeli Couscous Salad a serious Mediterranean feel which is awesome.
Once everything is stirred together, taste it and adjust the seasonings. Feel free to drizzle on more dressing or add an extra sprinkle of salt or pepper.
It’s a good spoonful of food though.
The best thing about this Israeli Couscous Salad is that it’s great right off the grill or if you make it in advance, it keeps totally fine for a few days in the fridge.
It’s a super-flexible salad, but definitely a crowd pleaser.
Happy Memorial Day Weekend everybody!
(I’m taking the weekend off from posting, but will be back with some new stuff on Tuesday!)