Preserves in Action: Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Squash and Pickled Cauliflower

finished couscous salad

Like so many of the salads I’ve in the past, this one came to be thanks to a chorus of ingredients that were clamoring for attention. I had a trio of rapidly softening shallots in the fruit basket, an aging butternut squash on the counter, and both some pickled cauliflower and wilted cilantro in the fridge.

butternut squash & shallots

I used Israeli couscous because it was the vehicle I could most easily put hands on (the bag was on the counter). Farro, wheat berries, orzo, or quinoa would also be good options. I happen to adore Israeli couscous because it has such a nice bite, but if you’re avoiding refined carbs or wheat entirely, know that the salad won’t suffer from a swap.

pickled cauliflower

Here’s how it came together. I peeled the squash, removed the seeds, cut away a soft spot, and diced it. I combined those cubes with slivers of shallot and a good glug of olive oil on a roasted sheet and tucked it into a very hot oven (450 degrees F). The couscous I cooked in a large pot of salted water brought to a rolling boil (it cooks quickly, so watch carefully).

steamy israeli couscous

Once the couscous was done, I drained it and turned it out into a large bowl. I added chopped bits of pickled cauliflower and minced cilantro. Once the squash and shallots were done, they went in too. I dressed it with pickle juice, olive oil, a squirt of lemon, a little freshly ground black pepper, and some of the orange zest salt I made recently.

I ate it warm over some baby arugula for dinner the first night and then cold for lunch for the next couple of days. I found that it benefitted from an extra dose of olive oil on the second and third days, as it needed just a hint of moisture.

couscous salad over greens

It’s a formula that is endlessly flexible for the season and the contents of your kitchen. In the summer, I make something similar with barley, pickled red onion, minced cucumbers, parsley, and crumbled feta. Once spring is more firmly here, I’ll be roasting asparagus and spring onions for a turn in a quinoa salad. The secret is to limit the number of ingredients to no more than six, use a fresh herb if you can get it, and chop the pickles very fine.

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10 Responses to Preserves in Action: Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Squash and Pickled Cauliflower

  1. 1
    Leah says:

    Looks yummy! When you say pickle juice do you mean the liquid the cauliflower was in? Just curious 🙂

  2. 2
    Susan says:

    I don’t see a recipe for pickled cauliflower. Could you share please?

  3. 3
    Liz says:

    I’ve made a salad like this for a number of years now. I love Trader Joe’s Harvest Blend (Israeli couscous, orzo, small garbanzo beans, and quinoa), and would pair it with small-ish cubes of squash I’d roasted with herbs. Before popping the baking sheet in the oven, I slice the top off a head of garlic, place it in a piece of tinfoil, pour some olive oil over it, and seal up the foil. It just sits in a corner of the pan, and when the squash is done, I have yummy roasted garlic. Usually I just put it in the bowl, mash it a bit with my fork, then mix the couscous and squash in. Amazingly flavorful! 🙂

  4. 4
    Rita says:

    This sounds like a great quick salad that I will be making. Actually I have all the ingredients on hand !

  5. 5

    ah, I’m going to pass this on to my best friend. She has some very strange pickles and they might do better in a salad than eaten out of hand.

    I have some strange pickles, too – pickled rhubarb. The sticks turned to mush in the jars. I thought of pureeing them and calling it chutney, but there are so many whole spices in there that’s it’s tiresome to separate them. Maybe I could sort of mash up a few sticks in a salad dressing like you’re talking about here. . . I’d welcome any ideas you have (and I am NEVER pickling rhubarb again).

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