Here in the PNW, the transition from spring to summer can be a wild-ride of quick weather changes. Sometimes you have cozy, drizzly days like the one I’m having today, which inspires you to drink tea and build fires. The next day might be a scorcher requiring shorts and a trip down to the local ice cream shop. Never-the-less, I began my porch garden at the end of May and have been looking for excuses to begin cooking up summery flavors like basil and tomato. This recipe was inspired by the herbs in my modest little garden including a lemon thyme dressing and basil tossed into a couscous salad studded with grape tomatoes and brussels sprouts grilled in a cast-iron (still don’t have a mini grill to go with my mini garden).
The lemon dressing makes this salad bright, while the brussels sprouts and couscous help this dish feel hearty and satisfying enough to eat as a stand-alone meal. When choosing couscous, I went with the larger pearl variety, but finer couscous varieties would work just as well here.
COUSCOUS SALAD with GRAPE TOMATOES, BRUSSELS SPROUTS, and LEMON THYME DRESSING
serves 2 people as a main course
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
5 Sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp honey
Pinch of salt (or to taste)
Pinch of black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 cup pearl couscous
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup brussels sprouts, quartered lengthwise
5 basil leaves chiffonade
3-4 cups spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the couscous. Add olive oil to a saucepan and sauté the pearls until they turn a light golden-brown. Add 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cover with a lid. Cook for about 12 minutes, or until all water is absorbed and couscous is al dente.
Add all dressing ingredients to a small jar, screw lid on tightly, and shake vigorously to combine. Set aside.
Add olive oil to a cast iron pan and heat to medium heat. Add tomatoes face down onto pan and add brussels sprouts on top, spreading everything out as evenly as possible. Leave the veggies to grill, not moving them too much in the pan. Once the tomatoes and brussels turn deep golden brown, shake pan and flip some of the brussels to brown on their other sides. Once the veggies have a grilled appearance, remove pan from the heat and set aside. The tomatoes should still hold their form, and shouldn’t break down into a mush.
Toss together the couscous, grilled veggies, and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, add pile of spinach to plate. Top with a generous portion of the couscous salad. Complete by drizzling with the lemon-thyme dressing. This dish can be served warm or cold.