Isn’t it funny how January hits and all of a sudden salads look AMAZING?? I guess a person can only handle so many shortbread cookies before the body goes on strike.
I ate a quinoa salad at the Cactus Club not that long ago that I became obsessed over. I loved the combination of ingredients, and it was a unexpected departure from the typical salad. I used that as inspiration for this recipe. I spent the better part of a day trying to figure out a name for this salad (sad but true), and this seemed the most fitting.
I was craving couscous the day I made it, but you can substitute quinoa (just follow the directions for cooking it on the package). I will admit, quinoa is much healthier, but sometimes I just love the taste of couscous!
This is a hearty enough salad that you can easily pack it for lunch or have it as a stand-alone dinner. You can add some grilled chicken or tofu if you want more substance, but my very manly husband had no issues having this alone for dinner.
I use chicken broth to cook my couscous and quinoa as I find that it adds a lot of flavour, but you can use water or vegetable broth if you wish. My secret to getting a PERFECTLY emulsified (creamy) dressing is to use an Aerolatte. Honestly, you will never make salad dressings another way once you use one of these, and they are the perfect size for making salad dressing! We use it almost every day.
- 1 1/2 c. water (or chicken broth)
- 3/4 c. medium couscous
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 4 c. spinach leaves
- 1/2 c. dried cranberries
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 2 spring onions, diced
- 3/4 c. seedless grapes, cut in half
- 1/2 c. feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 c. cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 c. diced long english cucumber
- 1/2 c. toasted or caramelized pecans, chopped*
*I caramelized my pecans, but if you don’t want your salad very sweet you can just use plain pecans. To caramelize them place 1 Tbsp. butter in a small frying pan, melt over medium heat, add your pecans and 2 Tbsp. of brown sugar plus 1 Tbsp. of water and a dash of cayenne pepper, and stir. Cook over medium heat for approximately 3-4 minutes until the brown sugar is caramelized and pour them out onto a sheet of aluminum foil or parchment paper to cool.
- Make your salad dressing according to the directions below.
- Bring the water or chicken stock to a boil on the stove in a small saucepan. Add the couscous, stir, cover, and remove from the heat. Let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Uncover the couscous, pour the olive oil into the couscous and fluff it with a fork. Place the couscous on a large plate, spreading it out to cool and put it in the refrigerator until it is completely cooled.
- In a large bowl, combine all of your remaining salad ingredients together. Toss in the cooled couscous, pour in the dressing (use as much or as little as you like, you likely won’t need the full amount), toss and serve!
Salad Dressing Ingredients:
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- Juice of 1 lemon (fresh only, about 2 Tbsp.)
- 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp. sugar or honey
- 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 2/3 c. canola or olive oil
- In a small but tall bowl (or large cup or mason jar), whisk the garlic, lemon, dijon, sugar or honey, and red wine vinegar together.
- Slowly add the oil while whisking (I use the Aerolatte below for this part) until it is all mixed in.