Couscous – which we should call semolina – is a perfect base to create different types of dishes and a very good resource to prepare a meal in a short time. Combined with various types of vegetables, legumes, eggs, fruit, nuts, gherkins and many other ingredients, a wide variety of salads can be prepared that can be eaten as a single dish or as a side dish. The most common semolina in Spain is refined wheat, but you can use whole grain or corn (if you don’t like it, substitute quinoa, rice, bulgur, or even pasta).
It is important that the semolina is properly cooked so that the salads do not cake. I recommend sticking to the manufacturer’s instructions – usually a little more water is used than semolina – or steaming. If you want the salads to be completely cold, try preparing the couscous some time in advance so that it loses temperature.
The following salads don’t have strict quantities, but you can consider that about 50g of dry couscous per person is enough (you can add a little more if it’s a single dish). Play with the rest of the ingredients to your liking by adding, removing or using different dressings or cooking methods. Couscous has the wonderful ability to take on almost any flavor well, so it’s a great opportunity to let your culinary creativity run wild.
Cherry tomatoes, corn, arugula and egg
We started with a warm salad. Boil the couscous on one side and on the other, boil as many eggs as you have in boiling water (if you take them out and after seven minutes cool well, they will have a creamy yolk and will be easy to peel). Meanwhile, heat a skillet over high heat, add a drizzle of olive oil, two or three generous handfuls of cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cover the pan and allow the tomatoes to set, stirring them from time to time. When they are marked, reduce the heat and pierce them with a knife. Add a small can of corn kernels, a chopped clove of garlic, a sprig of rosemary (or whatever you like), and a teaspoon of butter. Cover again and cook until tomatoes are soft, 3 to 4 minutes. In a bowl, mix the couscous, a few handfuls of rocket or lamb’s lettuce and the tomatoes. Separately, prepare a dressing using four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, two of vinegar, a teaspoon of aged mustard and half a teaspoon of salt. Add to the salad and mix gently. Arrange on plates and finish with the boiled egg and some salt and pepper.
Chickpeas, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers
Here we turn to the practical canned vegetables. Prepare couscous and set aside. Julienne or spring half a red onion or spring onion, place in a bowl and add three tablespoons of white wine or apple cider vinegar and a pinch of salt. Mix it well and let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop a tomato, a green or red pepper and a brunoise carrot (small cubes). Mix everything together in a bowl along with drained cooked chickpeas, couscous and some chopped cucumbers and add extra virgin olive oil and salt. Strain the onion to remove the vinegar and add to the salad. If you don’t want to pickle yourself, you can buy pickled onions and add them in half. This salad goes very well with sardines, bonito or canned mackerel.
Zucchini, peas, lemon and mint
This is a very fresh salad, light and perfect as an accompaniment to grilled, baked or grilled fish. Prepare couscous and set aside. Using a vegetable peeler, cut a few strips from the well-washed rind of a lemon. Using a sharp knife, cut these strips into thinner ones, 1 or 2mm, and place in a bowl with half a teaspoon of salt. On the other hand, cut a zucchini into thin slices with a vegetable peeler and place them in a bowl with the juice of the same lemon. Add the couscous, peas (pre-cooked if fresh, thawed if frozen), and a few chopped mint leaves. Add extra virgin olive oil and salt. Run the lemon peel strips under water to remove excess salt. Arrange the salad on plates or on a tray and finish with the lemon zest, some chili flakes (optional) and a few extra mint leaves.
Spicy cucumber and feta
Refreshing, slightly spicy and bittersweet. Good as an accompaniment to a barbecue on a hot summer’s day. Prepare couscous and set aside. Cut a cucumber into 3 or 4mm slices and place in a bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, mix and leave for 15 minutes. After this time, remove the excess liquid. In a jar with a lid, prepare the dressing with 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 teaspoon honey, freshly ground black pepper, and chili flakes or powder, or any other seasoning or hot sauce you like (we don’t add salt because the cucumbers and feta have enough already). Shake vigorously and add to the cucumbers. Add the couscous and mix well. Finish with crumbled feta cheese and an additional drizzle of olive oil. You can also add some chopped peanuts and/or the green part of a spring onion, cut into strips, to this salad. And if you like it even more Asian, you can marinate the cucumber with soy sauce instead of salt and use rice vinegar instead of white wine vinegar.
Beetroot, carrot, kidney beans and herbs
In this salad we can use the beets as we like: raw, pickled or boiled. If using raw, wash well, peel and thinly slice with a mandolin. If you resort to pickled beets, it’s likely already chopped, and if you go for the boiled one, cut into cubes or slices. In a bowl, mix it with the carrot — also sliced or grated with the mandolin — cooked kidney beans, cooked couscous, and a handful of your favorite chopped fresh herbs. You can simply dress it up with oil, salt and vinegar, or you can make a yoghurt or vinaigrette with tahini, lemon and garlic.
Fennel, apricot, olives, walnuts and raisins
With this salad we are going towards the flavors of the Middle East. Prepare couscous and set aside. Remove and reserve the green part of the fennel, remove the base, quarter it lengthwise and remove the toughest middle part. Finely julienne the rest of the onion, place in a bowl, add a pinch of salt to soften it a little, olive oil and mix. In another bowl, prepare the dressing by thoroughly mixing together 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, a tablespoon of sherry vinegar, a handful of chopped walnuts, a handful of chopped raisins, and salt. In a bowl, toss the couscous with 4 or 5 fresh chopped apricots, black olives and the dressing (reserve some for serving). Arrange the mixture on plates or on a tray and finish with the fennel, some of its green leaves and the rest of the dressing.
Pico de gallo, avocado and shrimp
Prepare couscous and set aside. Make a traditional pico de gallo as shown in this video. Fry some shrimp in a skillet over high heat with oil and season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, combine the couscous, pico de gallo, warm shrimp, and 1 large diced avocado. Prepare a dressing with light olive oil, lime juice and salt. Add it to the bowl and mix. Serve and finish with a little more coriander. If you don’t like or don’t eat shrimp, you can substitute cooked black beans.