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Just finished gobbling up our halibut and shrimp bouillabaisse and left with a few perishables and a ton of pearl couscous? Toss together our mushroom and asparagus pearl couscous salad to purge your fridge of the leftovers.
Couscous generally is used in several cuisines, including Moroccan, Lebanese, North African, and Israeli cuisines. For this recipe, we use Israeli pearl couscous. Israeli pearl couscous is, in fact, not couscous at all. Couscous is handmade made by sprinkling water over durum wheat, whereas Israeli pearl couscous is machine-made from semolina flour and water, and resembles pasta. It is also much larger than other types of couscous.
Israeli couscous was traditionally served cold as a salad or warm with a garlic-based green sauce or a tomato-based sauce. Additionally, it is often toasted before cooking to enhance its nutty flavor.
We pair our pearl couscous salad with a Zhoug-inspired dressing. Zhoug sauce is a spicy, herbaceous sauce that originates from Yemen and is also consumed in other Middle Eastern countries such as Israel and Syria. It is often composed of hot peppers, garlic, cilantro, cumin, salt, and other spices.
Toasting the Couscous
This process adds a nutty flavor to the couscous and the dish generally. To achieve this result, sauté dry couscous in a saucepan in olive oil over medium heat. Several of the couscous pearls will become brown in color. When most of the pearls turn brown, the couscous is ready to be cooked in water. Be careful not to burn them during the toasting process.
Thereafter, add water to the saucepan and cook them for approximately 10-12 minutes. Cook them until they are al dente. If they have reached an “al dente” consistency and the water has not yet evaporated, simply strain the remaining water. Overcooked couscous becomes mushy and displeasing.
A Quick Pickle
We love quick pickles. For this recipe, we will pickle some sliced fennel and celery to dress the salad. Quick pickles add a lot of depth to the flavor profile of a dish. If you want to learn the basics of pickling, visit “How to Master the Quick Pickle.”
Reheating and Storage
Store couscous salad, with or without the dressing, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Lightly reheat the salad in the microwave or allow the salad to warm to room temperature before consuming it.
I suggest only using the amount of dressing you will consume that day. The remaining dressing should be stored in a separate airtight container in the refrigerator. The dressing may be consumed for up to 1 month.
Asparagus and Mushroom Pearl Couscous Salad with Zhoug Dressing
- 1 cup turmeric (or original) Israeli pearl couscous
- 1 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 cup baby arugula
- 2 celery stalks shaved
- 1/2 fennel bulb shaved or thinly sliced
- 20 spears asparagus cut into 3 segments
- 14 oz. shiitake mushrooms sliced
- 1/4 cup pine nuts optional
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 tbsp for couscous and 1 tbsp for mushrooms
- 3/4 tsp salt 1/2 tsp for couscous and 1/4 tsp for mushrooms
- ground pepper
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup cilantro
- 1 cup flatleaf parsley
- 1/4 cup olive oil 1 tbsp for cooked garlic and 3 tbsp for dressing
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- ground pepper
1. Cut Vegetables and Prepare Dressing
- Thinly slice shiitake mushrooms. Shave celery stalk and fennel. Peel asparagus if desired. Set aside.
- Mince or grind garlic in a food processor.
- Place a sauté pan on the stovetop at medium-low heat. Add olive oil and allow it to heat.
- Add garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until soft and fragrant.
2. Toast and Cook Couscous
- Place a medium saucepan on the stovetop at medium heat. Add olive oil and allow it to heat.
- Add couscous. Sauté for 5 minutes or until most of the pearls are brown in color.
- Add cold water and salt. Bring the water to a boil.
- When the water begins to boil, cover the saucepan with its lid, lower the stovetop to low heat, and cook for 10-12 minutes or until al dente. If the water has not evaporated, strain the water from the couscous.
3. Pickle the Celery and Fennel
- Add water, red wine vinegar, salt, cane sugar, brown mustard seeds, and coriander seeds to a saucepan.
- Place the saucepan on the stovetop at high heat. Boil for 5 minutes to make the pickling liquid.
- Pour pickling liquid into a mixing bowl with celery and fennel. Allow celery and fennel to sit in the brine for 30 minutes.
4. Grind Ingredients for the Dressing
- Combine parsley, cilantro, cooked garlic, red wine vinegar, and lemon juice in a food processor. Grind ingredients together and pour the dressing into a mixing bowl.
- Add olive oil, salt, cumin, Aleppo pepper, and ground pepper.
- Stir well.
5. Cook the Asparagus
- Fill a large saucepan with cold water. Add asparagus spears.
- Place the saucepan on the stovetop at high heat. Lightly salt the water.
- When the water begins to boil, the asparagus is done.
- Place asparagus into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Strain.
- Slice into 3 segments each. Set aside.
6. Sauté the Mushrooms
- Place sauté pan on the stovetop at medium heat. Add olive oil and allow it to heat.
- Add mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Season with salt and ground pepper.
7. Assemble the Salad
- Combine cooked couscous, pickled fennel and celery, cooked mushrooms, baby arugula, and asparagus in a mixing bowl.
- Toss with Zhoug-inspired dressing and pine nuts.
- Season with additional salt and ground pepper to taste.
- Serve and enjoy.