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June 23, 2011

Moroccan Couscous Salad with Saffron and Cinnamon

I tend to shy away from couscous. I blame a college friend who turned her nose up it saying, "Couscous? Sounds too much like goose poop." Ever since, whenever I see couscous that memory comes to mind (and perhaps will for you now, too. You're welcome. [Wow, this post is certainly off to a questionable start]). All joking aside, couscous has just never been very exciting to me.

Enter: Israeli couscous.

The standard itty bitty couscous may have never excited me, but I just discovered that his big brother Israeli couscous does! It is not just me, I served this salad at a picnic and received many positive comments and requests for the recipe. Confirmed crowd pleaser! Trust me and give your favorite summer pasta salad a makeover with Israeli couscous, or better yet, try this salad.

This recipe is inspired by a store-bought version that my dad served at his Memorial Day picnic. The combination of textures and flavors is just right. Light citrus and a touch of sweetness, tied together with the warm flavors of cumin, saffron, and cinnamon. The flavors are even better the second day, so I encourage you to make this a day ahead. The plump beads of couscous hold up very well overnight, something that I wouldn't expect as much from the itty bitty variety.

Moroccan Couscous Salad with Saffron and Cinnamon
Serves 10-12 as a side dish

2 cups Israeli couscous
3-1/3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp saffron threads
15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced 1/4" thick (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped in 1" pieces
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup Italian parsley, chopped fine

6 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp water
2 tbsp agave
3/4 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 3 minutes. Add dry couscous and toast for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in vegetable stock and saffron and turn up heat to bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and cover. Cook until all of the liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Toss with 1 tbsp olive oil and set aside to cool.

Prepare mix-ins and whisk together dressing ingredients. Wait until the couscous has cooled, and then gently toss with the toppings and dressing until well incorporated. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste, and fully chill before serving. For best results chill overnight to allow the flavors to meld--in which case keep the almonds separate to prevent them from softening. The salad may also benefit from an additional tablespoon of lemon juice and olive oil in the morning, as most of the dressing will be absorbed into the couscous overnight. Test first to see if this is necessary.

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway to win a copy of Vegan Desserts! A random number generator selected lucky number 59. Congrats to Carrie of Moves 'N Munchies! Email me your address and I'll get your book out to you right away.


  1. This salad looks delicious, I'm bookmarking this for our warmer months. I feel the same way about couscous, the little grain has never done it for me but I adore the Israeli variety.

  2. This looks really good- I love Israeli couscous. In fact, I don't much like regular couscous. Israeli couscous reminds me of acini de pepe pasta :) I love the flavors in this dish- its making me hungry!

  3. The picture and recipe look great! I'm also a big fan of Israeli cous cous over the "goose poop" version. Ha!

  4. If it has chickpeas and peppers I am pretty much in. I haven't cooked with Israeli couscous before but I may need to get some to try this.

  5. I just tried this couscous a few months ago, I was surprised!! It's tasty!! I love the idea of this recipe!

  6. I'm not into couscous either. I don't like the small grainy texture. It's the same reason quinoa doesn't do it for me, but at least quinoa is a whole grain with complete proteins and all 9 essential amino acids.

    I've had Israeli couscous at restaurants, but I've never thought about making it at home. Since it's actually pasta, I wonder how tough it would be to find whole wheat Israeli couscous. Your Moroccan salad sounds delicious! I look forward to making it.

  7. Goose poop? You should have lived in Germany. We pronounce couscous like kuss kuss which means kiss kiss in German. There you are. Anyway, that is a fantastic recipe! I have no idea if I can get Israeli couscous over here though.

  8. Israeli couscous is the best! I haven't had it in ages, though. I'll have to fix that. :)

  9. I like the paprika taste in couscous...yum

  10. A friend just brought me saffron from India- great timing!

  11. I love the texture of Israeli couscous as well! Such a nice chew to it! And I love cinnamon in savory this dish sounds kinda like heaven.

  12. Goose poop - that is too funny! Reminds me of our nickname for malted milk balls - moose poops. We can thank my dad, the hunter, for that one ;)

  13. Mmmmmmm, that looks good, I fancy this for lunch tomorrow :)


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