Pearl Couscous Salad

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Pearl Couscous SaladBoth pearl (Israeli) and “regular” couscous are actually forms of pasta; the only difference is size. Regular couscous is tiny; pearl couscous is about the size of a plump peppercorn, which makes it better for salads. (I’m especially keen on the whole wheat kind, and on fregola, the toasted kind from Sardinia.) This salad is a balancing act of many strong flavors, and personal preference plays a role here. So taste as you go and adjust the seasonings and condiments as you like.

  • Yield: 4 Servings
  • Total Time: 30 Minutes


  • Salt
  • pound pearl couscous
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 0.125 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 Preserved Lemon (page 286), skin only, sliced as thin
  • as possible, or 1 tablespoon minced lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • ¼ cup currants or golden raisins
  • Pepper
  • ½ small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas, drained but still moist
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts (see page 299)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
How to Make It
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the couscous, stirring occasionally, until tender but not mushy; start tasting after 5 minutes. Drain it well, rinse it briefly with cold running water, and drain again.
  2. Put the oil, lemon juice, cumin, cinnamon, preserved lemon, capers, and currants in a large bowl with a generous pinch pepper and whisk to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more spices, lemon, or salt as you like.
  3. Add the couscous, onion, chickpeas, tomatoes, pine nuts, and parsley and toss once or twice. If possible, let the salad rest at room temperature for an hour, tossing every now and then. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve.
  4. WHOLE GRAIN SALAD WITH PRESERVED LEMON Heartier (and a little longer to prepare): Instead of couscous, use about 5 cups cooked whole grain like farro, barley, freekeh, or wheat or rye berries.

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