This recipe for Israeli Couscous Salad welcomes any changes you feel like making to it, but I make mine with toasted walnuts, feta, mint, peppery arugula, and quick pickled shallots; every forkful is fresh and fantastic. It's really tempting to eat the whole bowl in one sitting.
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt to simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in shallots.
Cover and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Drain well and discard marinade.
To make the couscous:
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine couscous and oil. Cook the couscous until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes.
Stir in water and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 9 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 3 minutes.
Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread in a single layer. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
To make the salad:
In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, red pepper flakes (if using), and a pinch of salt. Add cooled couscous, arugula, mint, 1/2 cup feta, peas, walnuts, and drained shallots. Toss to combine.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with remaining feta and more chopped walnuts.
Shallots: I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize how brilliant the addition of quickly-pickled shallots is in this couscous salad. They only take a few minutes to make, and I know you’ll find other ways of sneaking them into your recipes for an unexpected pop of flavor. (Might I recommend pickled shallots atop Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and tossed into Panzanella Salad?) Within this Israeli Couscous salad recipe, I explain how to make Pickled Shallots. I highly recommend whipping up a double batch to use half in other ways!
Israeli couscous: This larger style of couscous is usually sold in bags, boxes, or even small plastic jugs at well-stocked grocery stores or online. Look for packages labeled maftoul, pearl couscous, or Israeli couscous. Since couscous is actually a pasta that only looks like a grain, feel free to use other tiny pastas: orzo, farfallini, fregola, bow tie pasta…you get the idea. You can also use the smaller-grained regular couscous for this recipe. For a more main dish-style salad, swap hearty cooked lentils for the couscous.
Arugula: The peppery notes of this leafy green play nicely with the tangy pickled shallots and salty feta cheese. If you can't find or don't love arugula, try spinach or baby kale instead.
Feta cheese: Or crumbled goat cheese.
Thawed frozen peas: If you have access to fresh green peas, go for it! No peas at all? No problem; replace them with diced cucumber or blanched green beans.
Fresh mint: Or fresh parsley if you prefer.
Walnuts: Toasting nuts brings out their flavor even more, plus it creates a crunchier texture and intoxicating aroma. Read on for my top two ways to roast walnuts. You could also used toasted pecans if you like.
Yield: My Israeli Couscous Salad recipe makes six entree-sized portions. If you're serving this pasta salad as a side dish, it will serve 10 to 12.
Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This salad in general (and the arugula in particular) has great staying power in the fridge!
Make ahead: The pickled shallots can be made a week in advance (store covered in the refrigerator). Make and cool the Israeli couscous a day in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator (a large zipper-top plastic bag works well).