Most salads, in my view, are insipid, unremarkable little creatures – hardly worthy of mention, must less a recipe. It’s harder to find an interesting salad than it is to find an honest politician.
So imagine my pleasant surprise when my dear friend Roja Najafi, on a family vakay with us, tricked us into eating her delicious couscous affair on not just one but several nights. In a row. Impressive, indeed.
After my plea for this recipe, on the theory that it might continue to work its magic for my family’s willingness to consume raw greenery, Roja was kind enough to share it, with pictures, instructions and even a soulful blessing, wonderfully enough.
Roja’s Couscous Salad with Saffron & Beets
This is a very humble recipe, and by this I mean it tolerates change and welcomes creativity. I drastically change the ingredients based on the poverty or prosperity of my fridge. Couscous, saffron, beet, lime/lemon juice and fresh herbs are the constant actors of this play!
The Way I Do It: I rinse all vegetables, fruits, and grains, before cooking, chopping, and eating. For this salad, I chop the veggies finely. I usually use less salt and more black pepper compared to the normal taste.
1 cup of dry couscous (prepare couscous according to the package directions. I add couscous to the boiling water with a dash of salt, 1tablespoon olive oil & ¼ tablespoon ground Saffron.)
2 average carrots, (grind or chop finely.)
2 average beets, (boil for 20min or until tender. Chop when it is not hot.)
1cup of lentils, (cooked, I switch between black beans and lentils.)
½ cup of chopped almond (you can go by any nuts of your choice or non at all.)
1 average cucumber (slice it as you wish, I chop it finely.)
½ cup of fresh mint (or any aromatic herbs you have available: cilantro, parsley, basil, work well with this salad.)
1 head of lettuce (chopped)
2-3 fresh lime or lemon, (juice it fresh!)
Vinegar (use it as much as you like and any kind you wish.)
Salt & Black Pepper (I go with more pepper and less salt.)
3-4 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
Fresh Fruits: If I have available fresh fruits at home I always add them to this salad. I have liked the result with fresh apples, peaches, grapefruits and nectarines.
1- Prepare your couscous based on the basic recipe on the package. While the water is boiling, or immediately after you add the couscous to the boiling water, add saffron!
2- Cook the beets. Let it cool down and chop after cooling.
3- Cook the lentils. Add a bit of salt if you wish. Drain the extra water.
4- Grind or chop the carrots, place them on the bottom of your serving dish and add vinegar. Let the carrots sit in the vinegar while you are chopping the rest of the veggies. If you’s like, add onions to this salad by mixing them with the carrots and soaking them in the vinegar. This basically cooks the carrots and onions in the acid.
5- Prepare the rest of your veggies and mix them up. Add them to the carrots. Add the beets and lentils. Add your fresh fruits now! Pour the lemon/lime juice on your fresh fruits.
6- Keep couscous for last. After adding the couscous, pour the olive oil on the top. Add salt and black pepper to your liking. Mix well!
7- Enjoy! Noush-e Jaan! (Sweet to Your Soul!) Bon Appétit!