For the most part I am usually happy with new recipes I try, but last week I had one of those streaks when nothing worked. It was probably something I was doing and by the fourth flop I decided to turn to one of my favorite cooks, Ina Garten, whose recipes I can always count on to be excellent. I’m big on hearty and healthy salads and have had this recipe tagged with a yellow post-it ever since I bought BAREFOOT CONTESSA FOOLPROOF at my local Costco. I put off trying it because I couldn’t find the kind of tuna Ina uses in her recipe, Italian – packed in oil, and feared if I used the white albacore water-packed tuna I usually buy I might have another flop on my hands. The salad would have been good but wouldn’t have anywhere near the flavor that it has with the imported tuna that I was lucky to find at NEW SEASONS MARKET, my favorite store in the entire Portland area. They are upscale like Whole Foods, but they are LOCAL, and completely cater to the way of life we enjoy here in my city. When I move I hope to have a New Seasons close by because that it where I want to shop in my new life.
If you haven’t tried couscous before you are in for a treat. It is a Middle Eastern pasta and Israeli couscous has much larger grains than the regular grocery store varieties and it absorbs all the luscious flavors in the salad. This is hearty enough to be a satisfying entree for lunch or dinner and is a delicious side dish with roasted and grilled meats. The flavors are actually better the second day so this is a recipe that can and should, if possible, be made ahead.
This recipe makes lots and can easily be cut in half. I made a full recipe but used only one jar of tuna because it is $7.99 for a small jar and I wanted to be sure I liked it. I loved it and next time will spring for the 2 jars of tuna. Inexpensive when you consider how delicious it is and how many it will serve. This will be a great pot-luck dish this summer, one that will really wow my family and friends. I couldn’t find pitted black oil-cured olives so used niscoise olives instead…so good…and added a big handful of chopped parsley along with the basil. I prefer to serve this salad at room temperature and bring it out of the fridge an hour or two before serving. The flavors dull a bit when the pasta is cold.
Add dressing to the salad by the tablespoonful. If I had poured the whole recipe of dressing on the salad it would have been too much for my taste. You can always add more later if the pasta absorbs it. The lemony dressing is so good with the tuna.
- 2 cups Israeli couscous (10 to 12 ounces)
- 2 (7-ounce) jars oil packed Italian tuna, drained and flaked
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup good olive oil
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- ½ cup pitted, oil-cured black olives, coarsely chopped (4 ounces)
- ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers, medium diced (4 ounces)
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup chopped scallions (6 to 8 scallions)
- ¼ cup julienned fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
- juice of ½ lemon
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the couscous and reduce the heat to very low. Cover the pot and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until the couscous is just tender. Drain in a colander.
- Meanwhile, combine the tuna, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, capers, olives, red peppers, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons black pepper in a large bowl. Pour the hot couscous into the mixture and stir well. Cover and set aside for 10 - 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Just before serving, stir in the scallions, basil, juice of the ½ lemon, and 1 more teaspoon salt. Taste for seasonings and serve warm or at room temperature.