Festive pomegranate couscous salad is as flavorful as it is colorful . Tangy-sweet pomegranate seeds, lots of fresh parsley, a handful of chopped mint, scallions and a quick lemon-ginger dressing with just enough chili flakes to pep it up. It’s that simple, and yes, that good.
Pomegranate couscous salad –let's launch
Or maybe lunch? This salad makes a good one for sure. When I first made this recipe, I discovered that couscous holds up well in the fridge, even with the dressing. Parsley and mint are a bit on the hearty side, so if you get picky and find them as fresh as possible and use them quickly, your assembled pomegranate salad will last for days.
How to remove pomegranate seeds
Messy activities go on in my kitchen daily, but I must admit, as much as I love pomegranate, the thought of removing the seeds makes me shutter. No matter how careful I am, I just know I’ll be cleaning off the walls and cabinets or suddenly stepping on a sticky bit on the floor.
We love pomegranate seeds on everything from cereal to Fattoush salad and we’ve tried a lot of methods for removing pomegranate seeds. Our current favorite method comes from BBC Good Food which consists of rolling, opening, submerging and removing. Step-by-step it goes like this:
1. Grab a large bowl and fill is ¾ the way with water.
1. Roll the pomegranate around on your countertop or chopping board to help loosen up the seeds.
2. Cut through the top of the pomegranate about a quarter of the way down.
3. Grab on both sides of the cuts and tear the pomegranate into half (you can also make 4 quarters and tear it into fourths).
4. Take one half of the pomegranate, submerge it into the water and gently start removing the seeds. You can use a method of turning each half, skin-side, onto itself.
5. Once you have removed the seeds, pick out any of the pith or skin from the bowl, rinse and drain.
I personally, find the submerging makes the seed removal easier; however, if you don’t, then just use a big bowl to work inside. This helps with runaway pomegranate juice. Because I am so messy with this process (and several others), I like to place the bowl in the sink where it’s a little lower to my eye level.
My unsolved mystery
Once thing I’ve discovered along the way is that when it comes to removing seeds, some pomegranates are easier customers than others. Certainly, it has something to do with ripeness, but it always interests me that you can go buy 2 pomegranates on the same day, from the same bin and one is quite cooperative, while the other, well, not-so-much. Another of life’s mysteries that I’m probably not prepared to solve.
My advice with respect to preparing the pomegranate for our couscous salad is to take that on first (even the day before if you like). It might be easier to not be worried about couscous cooking on the stove when you have your hands submerged in water and are in the middle of removing seeds. Depending on pomegranate cooperation, you should allow about 10-15 minutes for this part of the process.
Couscous, ‘regular’ and pearl
I am forever, absent-mindedly reaching for a bag of what feels like quinoa, only to discover it’s actually couscous. Small, ‘regular’ couscous is not a grain at all – it is a pasta made from semolina, which is a type of wheat. Pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous, is also pasta, but usually includes wheat flour along with semolina. Pearl couscous is bigger than that normal couscous you may be used to. It’s shaped into small balls (or pearls), hence the name and it looks a bit like pearl barley.
The size of the pearl couscous is a great fit for this salad because it compliments the pomegranate seeds and you can rough chop the parsley and mint so there is a lot of texture going on. You get the crunch of the crisp parsley and pistachios along with the pomegranate and the couscous holds up to the bit with a bit more substance that its smaller counterpart. That said, if all you have is regular, smaller couscous, not to worry. You’ll still end up with a fabulous salad. And it you want to go gluten free, quinoa is a good substitute.
How to make pearl couscous
To be honest, one of my motivations for making this salad was the bag of pearl couscous that first called to me to purchase it and then, after being very patient for a few months (yes, months), started pleading its case. And a salad was born.
Cooking is often an art, but it should always start with a quick review of the cooking directions on the label. In the past when I have made ‘regular’ couscous, I’ve just boiled some water up and then added the couscous and let it soak for a few minutes. In the case of pearl couscous, after I consulted the package, I learned that I needed to use a 1 ½ cups of water to 1 cup of couscous ratio. Unlike my normal method of soaking couscous in boiling water, the pearl variety needed to be added to the boiling water and simmered for 15 minutes. Wouldn’t have seen that one coming unless I’d done some pre-reading. So, before you start filling a pan, read your package instructions. They may vary depending on the brand you are using.
Quick layering hack
After you take your couscous off the stove with all the water absorbed, you’ll want to allow it to cool a bit. I find this easier to place it in a separate bowl. After it cooled a bit, I mix in the lemon-ginger dressing and gave it a stir. Not only does this help distribute the dressing, but it keeps the couscous from clumping up.
Prep everything else
One secret to this salad is using really fresh parsley. This adds serious flavor and crispness to your salad. If you start with the pomegranate first and then cook the couscous, you can prep everything while that process is going on because there’s very little left to do. Just prep the parsley, mint and scallions (green onions). Mix up the salad so you’re ready when the couscous cools a bit.
If you want to do things early, you can remove the seeds from the pomegranate and store them in the refrigerator overnight. Likewise, you can cook the couscous and add the dressing and store that separately. On your serving day, take 10 minutes to chop and mix. Seriously helpful if you are making this salad to compliment a big dinner.
I have vivid memories of being in the car with my parents who would be hopelessly lost and for whatever reason, refused ever to consult a map or stop to get directions. We always got where we were going in the end, but most certainly, the destination was not so sweet after all that aimless driving around.
The same applies to the simple task of reading the directions on the couscous package (for example). Why aimlessly wander and hope for success when the map is right there on the label. Consulting for direction doesn’t make you less of an expert, it just makes your smarter and more efficient. Peace.Print
festive pomegranate couscous salad
Festive pomegranate couscous salad with pearl couscous, pomegranate seeds, pistachios, parsley, mint, scallions, lemon-ginger dressing – deliciously easy.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 8 side servings 1x
- Category: Salads & Bowls
- Cuisine: Middle Eastern
- 1 ½ cups pomegranate seeds (1 larger pomegranate)
- 2 cups (300 gm.) pearl couscous, rinsed and drained (you can also use regular couscous or quinoa)
- 3 cups of water + a pinch of salt
- 4 scallions (white and green parts) chopped
- 2 cups flat-leaf (Italian) parsley loosely chopped
- ½ cup mint leaves, chopped
- ½ cup pistachios (opt for salt-free)
- 1 cup lemon juice
- 2 tsp. grated ginger
- ½ tsp. salt (optional)
- ½ - 1 tsp. red chili flakes
- ¼ tsp. ground black pepper
- Remove the seeds from the pomegranate (look to my blog for advice on this).
- Add 3 cups of water plus a pinch of salt to a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil. Add the rinsed couscous, stir, reduce the heat and cover. Allow the couscous to simmer until the liquid is absorbed (15 minutes). For best results , follow the package instructions.
- While the couscous is cooking, prepare the dressing by combining 1 cup lemon juice, 2 tsp. grated ginger, ½ tsp. salt and ½ - 1 tsp. red chili flakes and ¼ tsp. ground black pepper in a small bowl.
- Prep the green onions, parsley and mint. Add these ingredients, plus the pomegranate seeds and pistachios to a medium salad bowl.
- Once the couscous is done, allow it to cool. I find it easiest to transfer it to a small mixing bowl and stir it a few times. Once it has cooled a bit, add the dressing to the couscous and mix well.
- Add the couscous to the rest of the salad ingredients and mix well.
- The prep time includes 10 minutes to cool the pearl couscous.
- You can use regular couscous for this salad or if you want a gluten free option, use quinoa in the same amounts (2 cups).
- You take a twist on the dressing by adding ½ cup of lemon juice and ½ cup of lime or even orange juice.
Keywords: pomegranate couscous salad