israeli couscous and french lentil salad

It’s hard to top summer’s abundance of leafy greens piled high with fresh-picked vegetables from the garden. The Queen of Summer cuisine is back, in shades of fern and chartreuse. The Salad has arrived, ready to cleanse us of any vegetable estrangement that might still linger from winter.

Yet there’s another kind of salad that’s captured my heart. A salad with chew and bulk and attitude. A salad that brings the pearls of Israeli couscous together with the freckled indigo lentilles du Puy. A salad with chutzpah.

israeli couscous salad

Like other pasta- or grain-based salads like tabbouleh, this salad can do double-duty as either a side or the main show. Cool enough for company and easy enough for a Monday, it shines alongside burgers or lugged along to potluck. Or how about stashed away in the fridge for a lunch-hour crisis that might otherwise send you to the snack cupboard?

When I first made this salad, it was the not-so-obvious combination of textures and tastes that really struck the “make again” sensors; mint and cinnamon, dates and pine nuts are perfect together. These surprise minglings are one of the most basic pleasures of eating — something that too often gets lost to convenience and habit.

Israeli Couscous and French Lentils

serves 4 as a side dish, double for a more reasonable leftover-friendly amount


1/4 cup French lentils, well rinsed (blackish with flecks, and smaller than brown lentils…see picture following recipe)
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous (pearl-shaped, see picture following recipe)
1 (4 inch) cinnamon stick
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp freshly grated lemon peel
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup pitted chopped dates
1 1/2 Tbsp minced fresh mint (please don’t omit this!)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
lemon wedges
pine nuts, toasted on an un-oiled baking tray at 350 degrees for 3-5 minutes.


  1. In a saucepan, combine the lentils with 1/2 tsp of the salt and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, set aside.
  2. While the lentils simmer, bring a medium-sized pot of water to boil. Stir in the couscous, cinnamon stick, and 1 tsp of salt. Cover the pot until the water returns to a boil; then uncover and cook for about 8-10 minutes. The couscous should still be a little firm in the middle. Drain, rinse with cool water, and drain again. Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.
  3. In a serving bowl, toss together the couscous, lentils, olive oil, lemon peel, lemon juice, bell peppers, dates, mint, pepper, and the remaining tsp of salt. Set the salad aside for 30 minutes to let the flavours develop.
  4. Serve with lemon wedges and top with toasted pine nuts.

courtesy of Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

Nutritional information (per 1 cup): 226 calories, 5.1 grams fat, 40 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 6.6 grams protein.

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