Saffron infused couscous served as the foundation for this grain salad that I brought to a Rosh Hashana celebration. Tart cranberries, crunchy pistachios, and caramelized onions were thrown into the mix to provide a nice contrast of flavors with plenty of pops of color.
- 1 1/4 cups sodium-free vegetable stock or water
- A few threads of saffron
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Olive oil to drizzle
- 1/2 cup whole wheat couscous
- 1/2 cup apple juice sweetened cranberries
- 1/4 cup unsalted pistachios, lightly toasted
- 4-5 radishes, thinly sliced
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- 1 1/2 tsps quinoa, chickpea, or whole-wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 3 tbsp coconut or avocado oil
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Pinch Salt
- Freshly ground pepper
Place saffron in water or stock and bring to a boil. Once bubbling, turn stove off, add couscous and cover pot with a towel and a lid to steam the grain for 10 minutes. Once grain is cooked, transfer to serving bowl, fluff with a fork, and add a drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice. Incorporate cranberries and nuts, reserving 1 tbsp of each for garnish. Taste and adjust the flavors by adding more lemon juice, olive oil, salt or pepper.
For the shallots, you can simply caramelize or you can make some crispy turmeric-cumin shallots for garnish. Mix together flour, turmeric, and cumin. Add dry shallots to flour mixture and toss to coat. Heat coconut or avocado oil in skillet over high heat. Add shallots and cook until crispy, about 2-3 minutes.
Top the couscous with the remaining cranberries, pistachios, and shallots. Finish with parsley and freshly ground black pepper.
If you follow this blog or my IG, than you know grain salads are a major staple of my diet. I love the diversity, creativity, and simplicity of composing a grain salad based on what you have on hand from the pantry or recent CSA loot. It also serves as a perfect vehicle for a complete and filling meal. As a lunch box packer, I always make multiple servings of the grain salad I am composing or simply of the grain itself in order to have at least one lunch on hand to grab on my way out the door.
Mark Bitman wrote a great piece last week in the New York Times about the accessibility of packing your lunch and provided some simple ideas for your work-midday-meal.
Still not won over by the prospect of bringing your lunch? Packing your lunch will trim your weekly expenses and your waistline:
Major money saver- if you live in NYC, it is rare to have a lunch that is under $10. By packing, you could be saving $50 a week, $200 a month, and $2,400 a year!
Waist saver: by packing your lunch, you have total control over the ingredients that you are putting into your body. Most restaurants and take-out joints load their food up with sodium, oil, and/or butter, which can add up to many unneeded grams of saturated fat, excessive calories, and sodium overload.
Portion Control- You decided how much you should be eating, not a fast food chain or restaurant.
Utilize your leftovers: when wrapping up your leftovers from dinner, portion out a lunch-sized serving. You can always fluff it up with some added salad greens or baby carrots for contrast and crunch.
Although requiring some advance planning, packing your lunch has major short –term and long-term ramifications that will make you think twice before your next calorically dense lunch special.