Couscous Salad with Cilantro Pesto and Spring Vegetables

Couscous Salad with Spring Peas and Cilantro Pesto

Fresh cilantro pesto brightens up this easy pasta salad.  Vary the vegetables as you like or substitute toasted walnuts for the pepitas.  Spring asparagus or pea shoots would be a nice addition.  Look for Israeli couscous at high-end and specialty markets such as Whole Foods or Gene’s in Saratoga.  In a pinch substitute jarred pesto for the fresh.  You may not find ready-made cilantro pesto, and if not, basil pesto will do.  Add as much as you need to moisten the salad and give it plenty of flavor.

Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 teaspoons pepitas (shelled, raw pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro leaves and soft stems
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • 3/4 cup peas (thawed frozen or fresh)
  • 4 radishes, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 4 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1 cup snap peas, cut into diagonal pieces

Method:

  1. Warm 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium saucepan.  Pour couscous into pan and toast the grains for 2 minutes or so until they brown lightly.  Add 2 1/4 cups water, mix with couscous and bring to a boil.  Lower heat, cover and simmer gently until water is absorbed and couscous is tender (about 12 to 15 minutes).  Remove from pan, toss with a bit of olive oil in a large serving bowl and cool.
  2. Toast pepitas in a small, dry skillet over medium-low heat until they are golden brown in many places.  Cool slightly.
  3. Place cilantro, lemon juice, garlic, and pepitas in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade.  Whir on high speed until everything is finely chopped.  Slowly drizzle oil through feed tube with motor running.  Stop machine, taste pesto and add salt to taste.
  4. If using fresh peas, lightly steam over water until barely tender, about 2 minutes.  Rinse under cool water to stop cooking process.
  5. When couscous has cooled, add pesto, radishes, carrot, onions, English peas and snap peas.  Toss the ingredients together.  Taste for salt and add more as needed.
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