A toasted cous cous salad with spinach, avocado and pink grapefruit with a pomegranate molasses dressing
February 7, 2011
I know. What was I thinking? It’s blowing a gale out there and I’m making salad???? Well, it’s a filling one, perfect for lunch on its own or as part of a bigger mezze style meal. This is a salad that will bring some very welcome sunshine to your plate. Close your eyes and you might just be somewhere else (you may have to put on music to shut out the pelting rain)……
Pink grapefruit and avocado are in season at the moment and this doesn’t actually happen when the weather’s hot unless you live in the Middle East. For us both of these are winter varieties. For the colour alone I had to put these two together and salad seemed like the obvious way to go. I also had some spinach and that seemed like a good bet but when I put the three altogether with some olive oil, balsamic and a little honey to offset the tart of the grapefuit the result just didn’t seem quite right. Maybe on a blistering hot day in July but right here, right now……… no. First of all, despite the honey, there was still just too much bite from the grapefruit plus a bit more texture was required. What about cous cous? I love cous cous salads especially with avocado so I got to work toasting some up on the pan. Toasting the grains, if you’ve never done it, adds a lovely smokiness to things. You just stick the cous cous on a dry pan until it starts to turn a lovely golden brown. Then turn the heat way down and add hot water (double the amount of the cous cous is the usual ratio). Stir like mad until all the water has absorbed. At this stage the grains should have plumped up nicely. If they still seem hard, stir in a little more hot water.
When the cous cous is done stir in some olive oil to stop the grains sticking together. Let it cool down then add some perfectly ripe avocado, sliced grapefruit, finely shredded spinach and then a handful of toasted pinenuts. Has to be good right?
But what about the dressing? I really was beginning to wonder and then a bottle of pomegranate molasses caught my eye. I’d bought it just before Christmas but still hadn’t managed to get round to trying the stuff . Margaret always raves about it and it’s a staple for Yotan Ottolenghi. So, what is it? Well it’s a pomegranate syrup basically and flavourwise it’s both sweet and sour so very interesting indeed….. especially for salads. One taste and I knew I’d found what was needed. I think this might be the start of something. Apparently you can even make cookies with this stuff. You can get yourself a bottle in any Middle Eastern shop for a couple of yo yos and a lot of delis have it too.
Toasted cous cous salad with spinach, avocado and pink grapefruit with a pomegranate molasses dressing
1 cup wholemeal cous cous
2 cups hot water and maybe a little more
1 perfectly ripe avocado
120gr spinach – well washed and finely shredded
1/2 pink grapefruit
2 tablespoons pinenuts
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses plus some more for drizzling on top at the end
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Begin by toasting the cous cous as I described above. When it starts to change colour turn down the heat and add the 2 cups of water. Stir until the water has absorbed adding a little more if the grains haven’t cooked fully. When the cous cous is ready, put it in a bowl and stir in some olive oil. The idea is to coat all the grains so it doesn’t all clump together as it cools down. You can add a pinch of salt at this stage aswell. Set aside and get on with the other ingredients.
Toast the pinenuts in a dry pan over a medium heat until they start to change colour then remove and set aside. Peel the grapefruit removing the white pith aswell. I find a sharp knife works best for this. Cut the fruit down the middle, set aside one half then cut the other into segments which you then slice. Peel the avocado and chop into smallish pieces. Along with the spinach mix all these ingredients through the cous cous. Be gentle so the avocado doesn’t go mushy.
Make the dressing by putting the ingredients into a jar then giving it a good shake (with the lid on!!!!). Pour over the cous cous and mix the salad again. Taste and add a little more salt if you think it needs it then drizzle with some more mollases and serve. As I said this makes a good standalone lunch especially if you add a bowl of or make a big mezze selection – a nice Spanish omelette, some green salad, olives, good bread, hummus, roasted peppers, a block of salty Feta,….. you get the idea. Either way, enjoy!!