When you cook as often as I do it’s easy to forget a favorite recipe. Luckily, I have people in my life who remind me of these on occasion, as was the case last week when a client asked for the mint couscous that I had made for her a year and a half ago. I hate to admit it but I didn’t immediately remember the recipe so I dug through my files and eventually found the one she requested: minted grape couscous.
It’s a refreshing combination of flavors with fantastic textures: sweet grapes, cucumber, red onion, lemon and lots of fresh herbs mixed with crunchy almonds and filling Israeli couscous.
I prefer to use English cucumbers because I find the skin more palatable and enjoy the color contrast, but regular cucumbers will also work.
As with most recipes I’m inspired by, this one was tweaked to fit my tastes and is quite different from the original, most notably that it has mint instead of cilantro, the addition of almonds, and calls for toasting the couscous prior to cooking. Sadly, I didn’t record the source in my notes to give credit so please let me know if you’re familiar with it.
Here’s the recipe:
Minted Grape Couscous – serves 4
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/2 English cucumber, diced
1 cup halved seedless red grapes
3 tablespoons minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
Combine the Israeli couscous with 1 teaspoon olive oil in a 2 quart pan set over medium heat. Toast, stirring often, until the couscous just begins to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Pour in the water and 1/4 teaspoon salt and increase the heat to high. Once the water comes to a boil, decrease the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer for 12 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. Cool to room temperature.
Pour the almonds into a small nonstick skillet and set it over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until toasted, about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch carefully as nuts can burn quickly.
Combine the cooked couscous, toasted almonds, 2 teaspoons olive oil, cucumber, grapes, mint, rosemary, lemon zest and lemon juice in a bowl and mix well. Season to taste with pepper and remaining salt. Serve at room temperature.