Cherry Tomato & Lemon Basil Couscous Salad

Cherry Tomato & Lemon Basil Couscous Salad |Flavors of LightI found the most wonderful fragrant lemon basil at the farmers market, and this mix of cherry tomatoes are like sweet jewels—bright red sweet 100′s, yellow pear, and deep purple cherry.

Cherry Tomato & Lemon Basil Couscous Salad |Flavors of LightCherry Tomato & Lemon Basil Couscous Salad; fresh cherry tomatoes and pan roasted carrots basked in a lemon basil herb dressing.

I usually find inspiration at the farmers market, and on this day it was fresh herbs with the transforming power of their scent—the lemon basil that I found did just that…. There were two varieties of lemon basil, and the farmer suggested the cold grown “hoop house” variety for its “softer” lemon flavor.  It looks a bit more wild, and has longer stems than regular lemon basil. I’d say it has a mellower, yet more herbaceous and earthy flavor (which might be because a few of the flower buds got in while chopping the herbs).

I made this couscous salad with a mix of different varieties of cherry tomatoes and multicolored young carrots that I picked up the same visit. The cherry tomatoes are the stars of this dish, but you could easily add to, or switch up the mix of vegetables. The carrots are pan roasted to bring out their sweetness and a softer texture, while the finely diced cucumber adds a just a bit of contrast. The herb dressing with lemon, ginger and just a touch of sugar really brings all the ingredients together. Below is the recipe, which can be used as a guide rather than as exact measurements.

If you’re in NYC, I found these organic herbs at Gorzynski Ornery Farm at Union Square Greenmarket, they have lovely organic produce, do check them out.

Cherry Tomato & Lemon Basil Herb Couscous Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish.

1 cup couscous, prepare as directed on package, set aside.
1 pint cherry tomatoes, mixed colors/varieties, halved
1 bunch young  or baby sized carrots, mixed colors if available, halved lengthwise.
1/2 small Kirby cucumber, finely diced
1 whole garlic clove, minced
1/2 – 1 t finely grated fresh ginger
1 lemon – use about 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, and juice from 1/2 – 1 whole lemon
olive oil – about 4-6 T
1 t sugar or honey
1/2 (or more) bunch lemon basil (or any variety), chopped
1/4 small bunch mint, chopped, plus whole leaf mint for garnishing the salad.
salt and pepper, season to taste

Prepare couscous as directed on package and set aside. Par-boil the carrots for 3-4 minutes, then pan roast them on the stove top over medium heat in olive oil until they have some brown color and are tender, set aside to cool.

For the dressing; in a large bowl combine the garlic, ginger, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar. Add the olive oil and whisk to emulsify. Add the chopped herbs and gently whisk again, season with salt and pepper.

Reserve some whole leaf mint and halved tomatoes and carrots for finishing the plated salad.

Add the remaining tomatoes, carrots, and cucumber to the bowl of dressing and toss, then add the steamed couscous and combine all the ingredients well.  Place the salad on a serving platter and top with the reserved tomatoes and carrots, then scatter the reserved whole leaf mint over the salad. Enjoy.

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