High Protein Israeli Couscous Salad with Asparagus and Cherry tomatoes

Israeli couscous is actually a type of toasted pasta, and can be used in different ways, besides the most obvious one, which is to serve it as a starchy side dish. In the following recipe, I’ve used it as a base for a high protein colorful salad. The protein in the salad comes from the mix of tofu, chickpeas and Lupini beans. This combination of legumes and grain is highly nutritious, yet fairly light, compared to other proteins.

To add more flavor and textures to the salad, I’ve added to it scallions, freshly steamed asparagus, which is now in peak season, and cherry tomatoes, along with a generous amount of Meyer lemon zest and juice. The additions of dried herbs, a touch of honey and olive oil, added yet more flavors and aroma to it. This flavorful salad is perfect for picnics, as it doesn’t contain any highly perishable ingredients, such as mayonnaise, dairy or meat products. It is great on its own, as a light lunch entree, or as a side dish. Try it and enjoy.

 

Notes: 

* Lupini beans are yellow legumes, which are high in protein. Preparing them is quite a lengthy process, as they are quite bitter and require repeated soaking and cooking. The jarred version I’ve used here is ready to use, with a nice slightly acidic/salty flavor. It can be found in the Italian ingredients section, or online.

* Dried mint can be found in some ethnic stores, or online. It can also easily prepared at home. See below for instructions.

 

Makes: 6-8

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes 

Ingredients:

2 tsp oil

½ cup Israeli couscous (I used three colors)

½ tsp salt

1 cup water

1 bunch asparagus, lower part trimmed

7.75 oz (220 grams) extra firm tofu, cut into small cubes

9 oz (255 grams) peeled and steamed chickpeas

2 tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground four peppers mix

Juice of ½ medium lemon (I used Meyer lemon)

1 Tbs lemon zest

3 scallions, coarsely chopped

½ cup Lupini beans, peeled (see notes)

½ tsp dried oregano, crumbled

1/2 tsp dried mint, crumbled (see notes)

¼ tsp hot paprika

2 tsp honey (preferably orange blossom)

A handful of cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters

2 Tbs olive oil

 

  1. The couscous: heat the oil in a small pot over medium-high heat. Add the Israeli couscous, mix and sauté for a minute. Add the salt and water and mix. Cover the pot and bring to the boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Let stand in the pot, covered, for 5 minutes, before fluffing with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Lightly steam the asparagus in a covered pan, or in a microwave. Cool, cut off the top tips (save for serving), and cut the rest into small sections. Set aside.
  3. Add the tofu to the bowl with the couscous, along with the chickpeas, salt, pepper, lemon juice and zest. Mix gently, and add the scallions, Lupini beans, oregano, mint, hot paprika and honey. Mix and adjust seasoning.
  4. Add the asparagus and cherry tomatoes, and mix gently. Pour the olive oil over, mix again and serve, with the asparagus tips. (Note: if not using immediately, add the asparagus and cherry tomatoes just before serving, as otherwise the asparagus color will diminish and the tomatoes will be mushy.)

Dried mint

Wash and drain a bunch of fresh mint. Separate the leaves and place them over a sheet pan, lined with paper towels, in one layer. Keep in a warm, dust free place, until the leaves crumple and are completely dry – about 3 days. Keep in an airtight container.

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