With a few simple tricks, this main-course salad can taste great anywhere from the picnic blanket to a neighborhood block party.
It may sound counterintuitive, but using high heat for some of the salad add-ins means better flavor and varied texture. Cauliflower gets roasted in a hot oven for golden goodness before it goes in the salad. I like to use bright orange, green or light purple cauliflower when it is available.
Incredibly easy, homemade salad dressings always steal the show. It never fails to surprise how much fresher the salad tastes with a dressing free of thickeners and sweeteners. It's a simple five-ingredient Dijon.
No matter where you enjoy your salad, plan on a last-minute assembly. Most salads, when dressed too far in advance, become mushy.
For the couscous, you can substitute 1 2/3 cups (10 ounces) cracked wheat (medium-grain bulgur) soaked in 3 cups very hot water to cover in a large bowl until nearly tender, usually about 1 hour. Drain well before using.
COUSCOUS SALAD WITH ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND DIJON
Prep: 30 minutes; cook: 30 minutes; makes 4 to 6 main-course salads
1/2 head cauliflower, cored, separated into small florets (total about 8 cups)
4 tablespoons canola oil or olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt, about
1 box (8.8 ounces) whole wheat couscous
1/2 cup golden raisins
4 large ripe plum tomatoes, cored, diced
1/2 large seedless cucumber, peeled, cut in small dice
1/2 small red onion, finely diced, well rinsed
Dijon dressing, see recipe
4 ounces crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese
4 cups watercress, arugula or baby kale (or a combination)
1/4 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix cauliflower with 3 tablespoons of the oil on a large rimmed baking sheet (or use two baking sheets). Sprinkle lightly with salt, about 1/4 teaspoon. Roast cauliflower, stirring occasionally, until golden and fork-tender, 20-25 minutes. Cool.
Meanwhile, put remaining 1 tablespoon oil into a medium saucepan. Add 3 cups water; heat to a boil. Add couscous and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to low; cover the pot. Cook until nearly tender, about 8 minutes. Let stand a couple of minutes; drain in a colander. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in raisins and let cool.
Stir roasted cauliflower, tomatoes, cucumber and onion into couscous. Refrigerate covered up to 1 day.
Just before serving, add dressing to couscous mixture to taste. Gently mix salad. Add cheese crumbles and watercress. Toss to mix. Serve sprinkled with sunflower seeds and drizzled with a little balsamic glaze.
Dijon dressing: Mix 1/2 cup oil (I like to use a combination of olive oil and safflower oil), 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar), 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well before using. Makes about 3/4 cup. Dressing will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.
Nutrition per serving (for 6 servings, using all of the dressing): 554 calories, 35 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 24 milligrams cholesterol, 51 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams protein, 672 milligrams sodium, 6 grams fiber