Pearl Couscous “Caprese” Salad

With the passing of Labor Day, summer has come to a close, for better or worse. Thankfully, cooler weather has arrived in DC. But with earlier sunsets, lower temperatures, and the end of daylight savings time around the corner, the summer barbecue season is also winding down.

Which brings me to the dish featured in this post: pearl couscous salad – “Caprese” style. Just before Labor Day, we went to a barbecue to send our friends Shannon and Navin off on their delayed honeymoon. They’re traveling in Africa and India for six weeks, and as I post this, they’re probably a day into their trek up Mount Kilimanjaro – how cool is that?!

They’re vegetarians, so I wanted to bring something veggie friendly. I also wanted to avoid a traditional fusilli-style pasta salad, so I decided to try something with pearl couscous. After a quick search, I found this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, which is based on this recipe from Gourmet. I made a few changes to make it more of a Caprese-style salad, primarily by adding mozzarella and basil, and using balsamic vinegar in the dressing instead of lemon juice.  Here’s what I came up with.

Pearl Couscous “Caprese” Salad

2 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 cups pearl couscous
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock or broth
1 cup kalamata olives, chopped
3/4 cup fresh mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped

For the dressing: Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Spread 1 cup of the halved tomatoes on a sheet pan, cut side up, along with the garlic. Sprinkle with salt and a little olive oil, if you’d like. Cook in the oven for one hour, then cool. Remove the skins from the garlic and add to a blender or food processor along with the roasted tomatoes, olive oil, water, and vinegar. Puree until smooth and season with salt and pepper.

For the couscous: Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan, add the couscous, and toast for about 5 minutes, stirring often.  In a separate pot, or in the microwave, heat the vegetable stock.  Add the stock to the pan with the couscous and simmer, uncovered, for about 6 minutes. At this point, most of the liquid should be gone. Remove from the heat and cover for 10 minutes. Spread the couscous on a pan and allow to cool, about 10-15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the couscous, the remaining tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and basil. Stir in the dressing until evenly coated.

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