Work week lunches, they’re always a quandary. You need something filling, but not heavy; something flavorful, but that won’t bomb out the office; something healthy, but that won’t find you trolling the office for cake or cookies come three o’clock; and, of course, something transportable. The other problem is that you need to have enough good recipes to make up an acceptable rotation because, as my husband wisely said while I was preparing this salad, “Variety is the spice of life.”
This is one recipe that definitely makes the cut. I got the idea from Ina Garten – the Barefoot Contessa is a wealth of inspiration for the home cook. I couldn’t find the exact recipe, so I just made it up – niçoise is niçoise, anyone who knows anything about food could probably throw one together. The difference in this version is Israeli (or giant) couscous.
It’s less starchy and more filling than potatoes – probably because I only add two or three small potatoes in an effort to be carb conscious and then inevitably wish I had five or six. It also soaks up the mustard vinaigrette really well, but stays moist so you don’t feel like you’re chewing on cotton. Although they’re both made out of durham wheat, it’s easier to pretend that regular couscous (made from crushed durham wheat) is more of a grain than a pasta, but there is no mistaking the pasta-type bite of these plump little pearls (made from semolina flour) and ultimately I think that’s why this is so satisfying. It wouldn’t be the same with penne or fusilli or any other pasta you might use for a salad. Orzo could work, or pearl barley if you’re trying to eat more grains, but giant couscous was gigantically successful if you ask me – and by reading this I’m afraid that’s exactly what you’re doing.
The other ingredients are pretty standard: blanched green beans (they should technically be raw, but I prefer them al dente), tomatoes and boiled eggs. I leave out olives because the mister doesn’t like them, but by all means use them in yours.
The ultimate success of this salad and the reason for its lasting stay on restaurant menus worldwide is its contrasts in flavors and textures: crunchy, fresh green beans, juicy, sweet tomatoes, silky, moist tuna, sharp, spicy mustard vinaigrette and salty olives (or salty, sour capers in this case). All bundled in with rich eggs and velvety potatoes (or tender pearls of pasta joy). You’ve got carbs for energy, protein for staying power and vegetables packed with goodness. What more do you need to get you through the afternoon?
Makes 6 lunches
300g Israeli (Giant Couscous)
200g Green Beans, chopped into 1 1/2″-2″ pieces, blanched and shocked in an ice bath
2 Tomatoes, chopped into 1/8ths
4 Eggs, hard boiled
2 Tbsp Capers
2 cans Tuna (if you can get the jarred tuna in olive oil, and want to spend loads of money on tuna, use that)
1/2 Red Onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Dijon Mustard
3 Tbsp White or Red Wine Vinegar
4 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic, crushed
Salt and Pepper
1. Cook couscous to package instructions.
2. Meanwhile, make vinaigrette and toss all ingredients in it (separately or together).
3. Toss couscous with vinaigrette and mix in vegetables.
4. Arrange salad in containers and top with tuna and slices of egg. Garnish with parsley, dill or basil.