A couscous salad

A couscous salad with fresh herbs and fruit.

Once upon a time, salad meant lettuce, tomato, maybe cucumber and whatever dressing you might find in the fridge. But modern salad-making can be an art form.

I like to source ultra-fresh ingredients, preferably from local farms. For most salads, a variety of greens or a grain serve as my base, then I add whatever I’m in the mood for or what needs to be eaten first. Fruits, veggies, herbs and protein foods are all options. A topping like nuts, seeds, or croutons adds crunchiness. And cheese adds even more flavor.

No salad is complete without a homemade oil and vinegar dressing. Just find a jar with a lid and combine around three parts vegetable oil with one part acid. Acid could be citrus juice or any type of vinegar. Add a pinch of salt and pepper or any herbs that you like and shake the jar.

This citrus dressing is one of my favorites. It’s easy to make and adds a complex tanginess to any salad.

Fresh Citrus Dressing

2 Tbsp. orange juice

1 Tbsp. lime juice

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. Dijon or brown mustard

1 small clove garlic – minced or pressed

Salt & Black Pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place ingredients in jar with lid and shake until blended, or whisk together in a small bowl.

For a grain-based salad that takes advantage of summer herbs and peaches, try this couscous salad. You may substitute another grain, such as rice if you don’t have couscous.

Whole-Wheat Couscous Salad with Fresh Herbs and Fruit

Serves 8

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth or water

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 ½ cup whole-wheat couscous

¼ cup chopped parsley

½ cup chopped mint

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 ripe peach, diced

6 dried dates, chopped

5 dried figs, chopped

¼ cup toasted pistachios

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste

Heat the broth or water to boiling. Add vegetable oil, pour in couscous and stir. Simmer for 1 minute, then cover and take off the heat. Let stand for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.

Stir together with the remaining ingredients. Tastes great served warm or cold.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with NC Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups. Contact her at margie_mansure@ncsu.edu or call (828)264-3061.

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