Whatever you do, don’t work with feta in 100+ degree weather. Total stink fest.
But it’s worth the stink, because this dish embodies everything that I love about summer food and Mediterranean flavors. In fact, I wish I were somewhere in the Med right now, basking in the hot sun with a glass of chilled wine and a mezze plate in tow. Perhaps, on a yacht? Or not. I’m just sitting here, cramped in my little office staring at the baby blanket that we’re currently using as a curtain (the blinds are on order), thanking my lucky stars that this room faces the back of the house so that no one can actually see me.
One day we’ll get there.
The base of this dish is made with Israeli couscous, the bigger, fatter version of it’s predecessor. I love this stuff. It’s technically a pasta, usually made from either semolina or whole-wheat flour. Here, I combine these playful pearly whites with a handful of fresh vegetables; crunchy cucumbers, sweet tomatoes, shaved red onion, and yellow bell pepper. It’s tossed with a lemon vinaigrette, and topped with generous amounts of basil and mint… and feta. Oh, the feta- good quality is a must. I prefer one big block to the pre-made crumbles. And yes, it makes a difference.
I would serve this as either a side dish at a BBQ, or just straight up with a fork for lunch. In previous versions, I’ve even swapped out the couscous for tortellini and pasta. It’s my idea of a fun, fresh summer salad. Taste the rainbow! (insert evil laugh…)
- The couscous and vinaigrette can be made up to one day in advance (you will have extra vinaigrette leftover). Only add the feta and herbs right before serving. Substitute vegetables as desired.
- To make the raw onion slices less pungent, place them in a strainer and run under cold water for up to 1 minute. This will help to take the edge off.
- 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
- 3/4 c. olive oil
- 8 oz. dried Israeli couscous
- 2 c. cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 c. diced English cucumber
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 c. thinly sliced red onion
- 1/2 c. roughly chopped basil & mint
- 1 c. good-quality block feta, crumbled
- salt & pepper
*To make this in advance, only add the feta and herbs right before serving. The couscous and vinaigrette can be made up to one day in advance. Substitute vegetables as desired.
- Cook the couscous according the package instructions. Drain thoroughly to remove any excess water. Spread the couscous out onto a large rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking. Cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes and then refrigerate until completely chilled.
- For the vinaigrette, add the lemon juice and red wine vinegar to a small bowl. Slowly stream in the olive oil and whisk well to emulsify. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add all of the chopped vegetables to a large bowl.
- Combine the chilled couscous with the vegetables. Drizzle some of the vinaigrette over the top and toss gently. Taste the salad and add more vinaigrette and seasoning as needed.
- Right before serving, roughly chop the herbs and add to the bowl. Sprinkle the feta over the top.
- Garnish with extra herbs and lemon.