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A very satisfying and light meal made with simple ingredients. We’ve got all of the flavours you know and love in the Mediterranean cuisine in a quick and easy salad recipe. How could something so simple taste so incredible?
The base of this salad here is obviously pearl couscous. Because it is larger in size, each scoop of salad is chewy and textured, and it has a naturally nutty flavour. It makes for a heartier salad and can hold its own when combined with the rest of the ingredients and dressing.
For best texture and flavour, I always make sure to combine fresh garden vegetables like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions with other marinated favourites like artichoke hearts. Both cucumber and cherry tomatoes bring delightful freshness and colour to the salad.
I love throwing in a healthy amount of fresh basil, mint, and parsley or what other herbs are available for a big pop of flavour.
At the end, I throw in some feta cheese.
It would be best if you never skipped Feta Cheese and mint. The feta is creamy and satisfying, and the fresh mint makes the salad taste alive.
What really brings this Mediterranean couscous salad together and puts it over the top is the dressing. No surprise here, I use fresh lemon juice and an extra virgin olive oil for the vinaigrette and something sweet such as maple, honey or molasses. For an authentic Mediterranean flavour, add date honey if you find it. The sweetness of the dressing is entirely a personal choice. You may like it a bit tart or a bit sweeter.
This versatile dish makes a great lunch, light supper, or side, depending on your mood and hunger level. Serve it any time of the day and at any temperature. Serve it on its own for lunch, pile it on top of greens for dinner, or serve it next to chicken, fish, or steak as a satisfying side.
It is so easy to cook and a wonderful solution when you need a quick meal or a beautiful side to share. And you can make it ahead; the flavours deepen the next day.
One step I like to start with is toasting the pearl couscous in a little bit of good extra virgin olive oil. Toasting the couscous in extra virgin olive oil is a great way to deepen its colour and flavour. It takes very little time and makes a big difference.
Enjoy this fresh and extremely delicious salad! It is super easy.
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- Olive oil
- 1 cup Pearl couscous - also known as Israeli couscous or ptitim
- Salt - to taste
- 2 cups Water - boling
- 1 cup Tomatoes - Cherry or grape tomatoes halved or Roma or plum or vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
- Mint - Fresh chopped
- Parsley - Fresh chopped
- Basil - Fresh, roughly chopped or torn
- ½ Red onion - or shallot – finely chopped
- 2 Artichoke - hearts, roughly chopped in chunks
- ¼ cup Feta - crumbled
- 1 Cucumber - diced
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1 tbsp Olive oil - or more for dressing the salad
- ½ tbsp Maple - or date honey, also known as ‘silan’ or honey or molasses
- Salt - optional to taste
- Black pepper - optional to taste
For garnish (Optional)
- Basil - Fresh, roughly chopped or torn
- Place the ingredients in a bowl. It does not need much salt because of the feta cheese.
- Whisk together to combine.
- Set aside briefly.
- In a medium-sized heavy pot, heat the olive oil. Sauté the couscous in the olive oil briefly until golden brown and fragrant. Add boiling water and salt and simmer until couscous is al dente, for about 10 minutes.
- When ready, drain in a colander.
- Set aside in a bowl to cool.
Scald the sliced onion
- Just throw boiled water on it, drain, rinse with cold water, drain and repeat the process. This will give it a smoother flavour and reduces its bitterness and pungency.
Preparing the salad
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, mint, parsley, red onion, artichoke hearts, cucumber, and feta.
- Then add the couscous, mint, basil and parsley and mix together gently.
- Give the dressing a quick whisk and add it to the salad, and stir until coated.
- Test and adjust salt and pepper, if needed. It does not need much salt because of the cheese. It may need fresh black pepper.
- Garnish with more fresh basil and serve at room temperature or cold straight from the refrigerator.
- While you can enjoy this couscous right away at room temperature, I personally think it tastes better cold, as the flavours have had a chance to develop and marry. Refrigerate salad 8 hours to overnight for flavours to blend.
- Particularly if you have this salad as your main course, I think it is important to amp it up with some protein—chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, add protein, carbs, and fibre, and it provides a nutty and uniquely satisfying flavour. I like to cook them, but you may also use a canned version, make sure to rinse and drain for a bit.
- Other bean options like white beans or kidney beans will work well here too. You can also try to add lentils.
- Olives, such as pitted kalamata olives, will add a salty Mediterranean taste.
- Not into feta? You can try a different kind of cheese such as fresh mozzarella, freshly grated parmesan, mozzarella pearls, or grated aged gouda can also be used! Or a different kind of cheese. As I always say, "With enough cheese, anything is good!”
- To keep this recipe vegan, simply omit the cheese or substitute it with a dairy-free alternative.
- Use whole-wheat couscous if you are following the Mediterranean diet more strictly.
- An English seedless cucumber is my personal preference, but other cucumber varieties may also be used. Also, you can choose to peel the cucumber or leave the skin on.
- Cherry or grape tomatoes are the best type to use in salads since they do not release a lot of liquid. However, you can also try Roma or plum or vine-ripened tomatoes or another flavorful variety instead.
- Red onion is the most traditional type of onion to use, but a shallot (adds a mellow, sweet onion flavour), white or sweet onion may also be substituted.
- Looking to turn this dish into a main meal? Try toss in succulent shrimp, seared salmon, rotisserie shredded chicken, sliced steak, flaked fish or tofu!
- Fresh baby arugula offers an herbaceous, peppery flavour and slightly spicy taste. Plus, it is packed with calcium, potassium, and vitamins. Baby arugula has a more delicate taste; however, you can use mature arugula instead. Try using mixed greens, watercress, baby spinach or a spring mix!
- Want to boost the nutritional value and add texture? Try throwing in Garden Fresh Vegetables, such as fresh corn, diced bell peppers, grated zucchini, Broccoli, and Carrots.
- Flavourful marinated vegetables are a wonderful way to add rich, luxurious flavour! Add in roasted red peppers or marinated mushrooms!
- Oil-packed Slow-Roasted Tomato or Dried tomatoes add an intense naturally sweet, luscious flavour and delicious chewy texture.
- Chewy dried fruits are a fantastic way to add more texture! Dried cranberries(craisins), sultana, apricots, cherries or raisins are all great options!
- If you are looking to add an incredibly delicious, buttery flavour – try creamy, rich avocado!
- This dish relies on different fragrant fresh herbs for a burst of bright, fresh flavour! Thinly sliced scallions add a touch of delicate onion flavour. In addition to dill, the green onions, chives, or cilantro are delicious too. You can use a combination of your personal favourites for the most flavour or, you can use just one herb if desired.
- I personally love crunchy toasted pine nuts in this dish. However, pistachios, hazelnuts and almonds work as well!
- Ground sumac for a tangy, lemony spice flavour. Or zaatar spice for an aromatic blend with both earthy and subtle citrus undertones and just a hint of nuttiness.
- I love the light smokiness that smoked paprika adds to the recipe.
- Infuse the dressing with a little dill weed (dry or fresh is fine.) Dill weed is underutilized, but it can really add an extra layer of fresh flavour that will surprise your taste buds in the best way possible.
- Add 1-2 minced garlic cloves.
- You will want to make sure and use a higher-quality olive oil for the best flavour. I would NOT recommend using a different type of oil.
- Fresh lemon juice adds brightness and acidity, balances out the olive oil, and provides a punch of tangy flavour in the vinaigrette dressing. Try to avoid using the bottled lemon juice if you can.
- The lemon zest gives the couscous a bright, zippy flavour.
- The bold Dijon adds a zippy and tangy addition to the dressing.
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