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"Magic" Citrus Israeli Couscous Salad with Asparagus and Cranberries

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Easy breezy Israeli-style couscous aka pasta pearls make for a quick great base for any dinner salad including this Israeli couscous recipe for citrus salad. This is a great way to get a healthy and delicious dish on the table for dinner tonight.

Couscous whether pearl or grainy is simple and easy to make. But as with any pasta or grain, it is very bland and in need of a flavor boost. This can be achieved in many ways, and in this recipe, I employ several methods resulting in a light, fresh, and exciting dish that deceptively appears complicated though it isn't at all.

This easy pearl couscous recipe is made with simple ingredients and makes for a tasty side dish

What is Israeli Couscous?

Though most consider it a whole grain, Israeli couscous is actually a type of pasta. It goes by many nicknames including giant couscous, Jerusalem couscous, or pasta pearls. It's different than traditional couscous which is more grainy in terms of texture. It is often served as a side dish in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Moroccan cuisine.

citrus israeli couscous with asparagus and cranberries on a plate

Couscous whether pearl or grainy is simple and easy to make. But as with any pasta or grain, it is very bland and in need of a flavor boost. This can be achieved in many ways, and in this simple recipe, I employ several methods resulting in a light, fresh, and exciting dish that deceptively appears complicated though it isn't at all.

MOOD MUSIC

Though it is an easy recipe it does require some planning ahead. Sundays are my prep/work days in which I make all my standby flavor enhancers. These are pantry or larder items like sauces, pickled or fermented vegetables, infused oils, etc. My approach to cooking is put in the time to build an arsenal of flavor enhancers ahead of time. Then during the busy weeks make very simple dishes and rely on my larder items to perform the magic.

Citrus Israeli Couscous Salad Ingredients

Couscous by itself is just a boil and eat ingredient. I enhanced the couscous with pickled red onions and poached dried cranberries. The cranberries make this a magical dish. The poaching makes them plump and juicy, priming them for a mighty burst when you bite down into them.

They are crazy delicious and fun like edible pop rocks we used to eat as kids, so try not to pick them all out of the dish and eat them alone. The only other key ingredient was leftover grilled asparagus click here for recipe.

I knew I'd be grilling asparagus so cooked enough for two meals and reserved a portion for this dish. This recipe has it all - color, flavor, texture, and aroma provided by cooking the couscous in orange juice vs. your normal plain water.

  • Pearl/Israeli Couscous
  • Orange Juice
  • Pickled Red Onions (recipe included)
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Asparagus
  • Dried Cranberries
  • White Wine
  • Lemon
  • Kosher Salt
  • Pepper

How To Make Couscous Salad (Step by Step)

Step 1: Make the pickled red onions a day ahead

Thinly slice the red onion. Place onions and garlic in a large glass bowl. Add sugar, salt, and peppercorns to a small sauce pan. Add vinegar and stir until sugar and salt are both dissolved. Bring to a boil then pour vinegar mixture over the onions and garlic. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer onions and vinegar mixture to a lidded glass jar and store in the refrigerator.

Step 2: Make the cranberries

Put the cranberries in a bowl. Bring wine to a boil in small saucepan. Pour over the cranberries and let cool to room temperature. Let stand for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to a month

Step 3: Make the couscous

Heat a medium sauce pan on medium-high heat. Add oil. Add the couscous and toast for 2-3 minutes stirring occasionally. Couscous should turn lightly golden. Add water and OJ, bring to a boil then reduce to low and cover. Cook until couscous is tender and all of the liquid is absorbed (about 10 minutes).

Step 4: Grill the Asparagus

Pre-heat grill for high heat (feel free to roast or use indoor grill). Lightly coat asparagus with oil then season with salt and pepper. Grill 2-3 minutes to desired tenderness. Drizzle with lemon juice.

Step 5: Assemble the salad

Transfer the couscous to a bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herbs and

Serving Suggestions

Dish goes well with lamb, chicken or fish. Try with any of these:

Smoked Rack of Lamb

Peruvian Chicken Skewers

Smoked Trout

Grilled Lamb Chops

Cooking Tips for Israeli Couscous Salad

  • Asparagus, after being cooked, will last from three to five days in the refrigerator. Refrigerate promptly in an airtight container. Cooked asparagus may be frozen and will keep indefinitely, but for best quality, use before 10 months.
  • Israeli Couscous is such a versatile dish you can make a large batch ahead of time, refrigerate, then during the week add other ingredients to make a dish. The pearls work just like pasta so you can use in a cold pasta salad or with cheesy ingredients for a quick side
  • For a bit more nuttier flavor, toast the dried small pearls for a minute or two in a skillet before cooking.
  • Whole-wheat Israeli couscous can be substituted. It's naturally more nutty flavor and also has that golden brown color.
  • For more an even more savory flavor, feel free to substitute chicken stock in place of the water. Another option would be to use a good vegetable broth if you prefer to keep this as a good vegetarian side dish.
  • Add a meat protein like blackened chicken, air fryer salmon, or pan-seared scallops to elevate this to a main course offering.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Making This Israeli Couscous Recipe

What does Israeli couscous taste like?

Israeli couscous has a subtly sweet flavor with a bit of nuttiness.

How done should I cook the couscous?

Pearl couscous is more like pasta than a grain. Given this I prefer to cook mine to al dente, meaning it's not overly cooked to the point where the pasta is super soft. Al dente pasta or pearl couscous in this case is meant to have a somewhat chewy texture.

How do you keep the pearls from sticking together?

I like to eat my couscous salad immediately because it will clump-up if it sits out for long. If this happens to you a little olive oil or melted butter can be massaged in to separate the pearls.

For other similar recipes you might like, try these:

Creamy Israeli Couscous

Black Rice Salad

Air Fryer Asparagus

Southwest Salad w/ Shrimp

Smoked Salmon Salad

Easy Chickpea Salad

If you make this Citrus Israeli Couscous Salad please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.

You can also keep up with my food exploits as well as original recipes! You can find me on InstagramFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest. If you like any of the music you find on the site, visit me at Spotify to find curated monthly playlists.

citrus israeli couscous with asparagus and cranberries on a plate

Citrus Israeli Couscous Salad With Asparagus and Cranberries

Israeli couscous cooked in orange juice broth and topped with pickled red onions, grilled asparagus, and plump, juicy poached cranberries. 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Calories:
Author: Marwin Brown

Ingredients

Couscous Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • cup  orange juice
  • 1 ⅓  cups  pearl couscous

Pickled red onions Ingredients

  • 1 cups sliced red onion
  • 1 clove  garlic
  • 3 Tbsp  white sugar
  • Tbsp  salt
  • ½  tsp  peppercorns
  • cup  white vinegar

Grilled asparagus Ingredients

  • 1 pound  asparagus trimmed
  • tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon

Wine soaked cranberries Ingredients

  • cup white wine
  • cup dried cranberries

Instructions

Couscous Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
  • Add the couscous and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until lightly golden, about 3 minutes.
  • Add water and orange juice, cover and cook over low heat until the couscous is tender and all of the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the couscous to a bowl. Stir in the remaining ingredients, season with salt and pepper, garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

Red Onions Instructions

  • Thinly slice the red onion and peel the garlic. Place the onion and garlic in a large glass.
  • Add the sugar, salt, and peppercorns to a small sauce pan. Add the vinegar and stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Place a lid on the pot and bring the mixture up to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Once boiling, pour the vinegar over the sliced onion and garlic. Press the onion down so all the pieces are submerged, then let the mixture cool to room temperature.
  • Transfer the onions and vinegar mixture to a lidded glass jar for storage in the refrigerator. The onions can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.

Grilled Asparagus Instructions

  • Preheat grill for high heat.
  • Lightly coat the asparagus spears with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Grill over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or to desired tenderness. Drizzle with lemon juice.

Wine Soaked Cranberries Instructions

  • Put the cranberries in a jar. Bring the wine to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the cranberries and let cool to room temperature. Let stand for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Nutrition

Serving: 0g | Carbohydrates: 0g | Protein: 0g | Fat: 0g | Saturated Fat: 0g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 0mg | Sodium: 0mg | Potassium: 0mg | Fiber: 0g | Sugar: 0g | Vitamin A: 0IU | Vitamin C: 0mg | Calcium: 0mg | Iron: 0mg
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Recipe Rating




DA Kid!

Saturday 18th of April 2020

Had to create a special and decadent meal to celebrate a significant milestone birthday for the wife in this age of social distancing!! This was a fantastic approach to elevate known and familiar ingredients in a refreshing and simple way that produced elegant results with outstanding flavor!! Don't bother with water in the boiling liquid for the couscous- use all o-j... it melds with the other citrus flavors to create great harmony!

Marwin Brown

Saturday 18th of April 2020

100% on the OJ!