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Fall Israeli Couscous Salad

Late summer and early fall vegetables, with lots of kale, mix to create a scrumptious and healthy salad.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Author SoupAddict

Ingredients

for the greens:

  • 4 leaves lacinato kale , thick stems discarded, leaves chopped (see notes)
  • olive oil
  • 1 fresh lime or lemon
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh spinach , chopped
  • 2 heaping tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 heaping teaspoon chopped fresh fennel leaves , optional (see notes)
  • table salt

for the sweet potatoes:

  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 sweet potato , cubed (I use the white-fleshed Asian variety)

for the pasta:

  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 cup fregola pasta (or Israeli couscous) (see notes)

for the salad:

  • 1 medium carrot , diced
  • 1/2 field cucumber (or 1 pickling cucumber), diced
  • 1 small summer squash or yellow zucchini , diced
  • 1 small red bell pepper , diced
  • 1 bulb fennel (anise), chopped
  • 1 cup chickpeas

Instructions

prepare the greens:

  1. Place the kale leaves in a large mixing bowl. Add just the slightest blop of oil to the bowl (seriously, a 1/2-second pour is all you need), along with a big squeeze from a lemon or lime half. Use your fingertips to massage the oil into the kale (see notes). After a few minutes, the kale will become silky and bright green. Add the spinach and herbs, tossing to mix. Sprinkle a big pinch of salt over the greens, and set aside.

prepare the sweet potatoes:

  1. Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a saute pan or skillet - you'll need a lid or a cover (such as foil). Add the potatoes cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cover, and let the potatoes brown/steam in the pan, undisturbed, for 5 minutes. Stir to redistribute the potatoes, and re-cover, letting the potatoes cook for several minutes. Repeat until the potatoes are fork tender, and golden/lightly browned on most sides, 15 to 20 minutes total. Remove from heat, and transfer temporarily to a bowl, to cool.

prepare the pasta:

  1. Note that you can prepare the pasta at the same time as the potatoes, and let them cool together.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the vegetable broth to a 2 quart pot and heat over medium-high. When the broth begins to simmer, add the spices, plus 1/2 teaspoon salt, to the liquids, and stir to create a fragrant paste. Add the remaining broth, and bring to a boil.
  3. Add the fregola or Israeli couscous to the pot, and cook according to package directions. Check the pasta near the end of cooking; if all of the liquids have been absorbed before the end of the cooking time, add another tablespoon or two of water, and let that absorb. Remove from the heat, and let cool.

assemble the salad:

  1. Add the chopped raw vegetables to the bowl of greens, along with the cooled sweet potatoes, spiced pasta, and the chickpeas. Toss well.
  2. To serve, feel free to drizzle your favorite extra virgin olive oil over the salad, along with a big squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of salt. Or, use your favorite vinaigrette. (I wouldn't recommend a heavy, creamy salad dressing, but that's just personal preference, of course.)
  3. Salad will keep very well in the fridge for 3 days.

Recipe Notes

- Lacinato kales leaves are long and slender; if you're using regular kale, scale back the quantity a bit if you think it's going to be too much kale.
- Why the massage? Two main reasons: massaging kale softens the texture considerably, so it's less like chewing on thick pieces of paper. As someone with food aversion issues, texture (not necessarily flavor ) can be a real barrier to liking a food. Second, some folks just have trouble digesting raw kale, and the massage breaks down the tough fibers enough for it to be tummy-tolerable.
- Most grocery stores leave the stalks and leaves attached to the fennel bulb. If so, use the feathery fennel leaves as you would dill; they're delish, too.
- This salad is infinity flexible. Add riced cauliflower if you want. Or broccoli florets. Or shaved raw Brussels sprouts. Or use butternut squash in place of sweet potatoes. It's all good!
- I only sauteed the sweet potatoes, but you can do the same to other veggies to soften them up, such as the carrots, if your fam has a thing against overly crunchy vegetables.
- Optional: while the potatoes and pasta were cooling, I sauteed the chickpeas over medium heat until their outsides had dried out a bit, which firmed them up: slightly crunchy vs. creamy.