PJ’s Favorite Salad

My good friend PJ is home sick this week. I asked what I could bring her for dinner and she said, without a moment’s hesitation: THAT COUS COUS SALAD.
As you know, I do like my grain salads but I knew exactly what she meant.

A little over a year ago, I didn’t have many friends in Cincinnati.
I was still new to the area and busy with work and my home life. PJ and her husband invited me to casual Easter brunch at their friend’s house. Feeling shy about going to a party where I knew one person (and not very well), I decided to put on my favorite sundress and make a really good side dish. I find both to be the keys to confidence at parties; cute dresses and good side dishes.
Might be my mantra.

After a great afternoon of talking and laughing with PJ’s group of friends, I remember thinking on the drive home “this was great, I hope I see these people again.” Little did I know that these people would quickly become my closest friends and that we would get into all kinds of shenanigans over the next year (including our second annual Easter brunch).

The point of this rambling story is that when the person who invited you to a brunch that literally made your life infinitely better, now asks you to make that same side dish because she’s not feeling well; YOU MAKE IT.

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PJ’s Favorite Cous Cous Salad
8 oz Whole Wheat or Regular Cous Cous (not Israeli or Pearl Cous cous)
1 lb Asparagus, cleaned and trimmed (I recommend the thicker spears for this recipe)
4 oz goat cheese (honey goat cheese if you can find)
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 lemon, zested
1/4 c. parsley, chopped
4 tbs olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper

Cook the cous cous according to package instructions. Lightly steam the asparagus, just
3-4 min, the spears should be bright green and have some snap to them. Using a vegetable peeler (or a paring knife and a steady hand), shave the asparagus into strips. Slice the strips in half. In a very large mixing bowl, combine cous cous, asparagus, cranberries and almonds. Stir to combine. Crumble the entire log of cheese into the mix. In a small separate bowl, combine lemon zest, parsley, olive oil, sea salt and black pepper. Whisk into a dressing and pour over cous cous. Mix thoroughly. Taste here; you may want more oil or seasoning. Garnish with cranberries and almonds. Serve chilled. Serves 8-10.

Cous cous: bringing friends together since April 2012.

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