Fig & Herb Salad With Pearl Couscous, Toasted Hazelnuts and Za’atar
Recipe excerpted with permission from“Cornersmith Salads & Pickles: Vegetables With More Taste & Less Waste” by Alex Elliott-Howery and Sabine Spindler, published by Murdoch Books, $28.99
This salad serves four and works as a light summer meal on its own or as a side dish. Pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous, has a nuttier flavor and more pronounced texture than regular couscous, its much smaller cousin. Za’atar is a fragrant Middle Eastern spice mix based on dried thyme and sumac. Its zing and freshness complement the sweetness of the figs really well. You’ll find it in Middle Eastern grocery stores, spice shops and well-stocked supermarkets.
- 7 oz. pearl couscous
- 6 to 8 figs, depending on size
- 2 tbs. olive oil,
plus extra for drizzling
- 11⁄2 tbs. sherry vinegar
- 1 small handful of picked chervil or oregano leaves
- 1 small handful of picked flat-leaf (Italian) parsley leaves
- 1 small handful of picked basil leaves
- 1 tsp. picked thyme leaves
- 11⁄2 oz. toasted hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 1⁄2 tsp. za’atar
- Dried pollen from
2 to 3 fennel flower heads (optional; see chef’s notes)
1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add some salt and stir in the couscous. Reduce the heat and let the couscous simmer just below boiling point for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it has absorbed the liquid and is firm but tender, stirring every minute or so. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid. Leave to steam for 10 to 15 minutes, then loosen the couscous with a fork and set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile, to prepare the figs, cut off the stems, then tear the figs into bite-size pieces. Place them in a mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with the oil and vinegar, and let them macerate for about 5 minutes.
3. Gently fold most of the herbs and most of the hazelnuts through the figs, being careful not to break them up too much.
4. Spread the couscous on a large serving plate or platter. Arrange the figs and herbs on top. Garnish with the remaining herbs and nuts, and sprinkle the za’atar evenly over the salad. Finish with an extra drizzle of olive oil, crumble the fennel pollen on top, if using, and serve.
Chef’s notes: You’ll often find fennel growing wild along roadsides and railway lines. Pick the flower heads, then hang them upside down in a well-ventilated spot in your kitchen for two to three days, until dry. Crumble the dried fennel pollen over the dishes, or use the pollen or flowers to infuse honey or vinegar, or to flavor pickles.