As winter sets in, are you dreaming of summer’s sweet juicy tomatoes? Roasting the tomatoes available during winter concentrates their sweetness, enhances their juiciness and is a sure fire way to coax a bit more of that summer taste. Plan ahead as the tomatoes are slow roasted for 2 hours at low temperature in the oven. A surprising addition of fennel and cumin seeds to the tomatoes add a big dose of flavor. Israeli couscous gives the salad a nice texture and its nuttiness is enhanced by flash-frying it first to a golden color before boiling it. The salad comes together with a mess of arugula and a simple vinaigrette. This recipe comes to me from my niece Vanessa, a gifted cook, who spoiled me with a fantastic dinner during a recent visit to her home in Tampa, Florida. It is originally from the acclaimed LCBO magazine of Ontario, Canada’s Liquor Board. The salad makes a delicious side to grilled fish or chicken. It’s a little bit of summer in every bite, even in cold January!
Roasted Tomato and Israeli Couscous Salad
1 lb small to medium-sized tomatoes, preferably a variety of colors
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 t fennel seeds
1/2 t cumin seeds
1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
1 c Israeli couscous
2 T olive oil
1 bay leaf
a few sprigs of thyme
6 c water
salt and pepper
1/2 c olive oil
3 T balsamic or sherry vinegar
1- Preheat oven to 275 F.
2- In a medium bowl combine the fennel and cumin seeds, salt, garlic and olive oil. Cut tomatoes in half and toss in the oil-spice mixture to coat. Place the tomatoes cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 2 hours. The tomatoes can be made in advance, covered and refrigerated until ready to use. Warm in a 250 F oven for 10 minutes when ready to assemble the salad as you want them warm.
3- In the pot you will cook the couscous in, heat 2 T oil on medium-high heat and cook the couscous until it is golden brown. Add the bay leaf and thyme and the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20-25 minutes. Drain and discard the bay leaf and thyme. Return the couscous to the cooking pot. Mix the oil and vinegar together and season with the salt and pepper to taste. Pour half of the dressing over the couscous and let rest 5 minutes to let the grain absorb the vinaigrette.
4- To assemble, place arugula in a shallow platter. Spoon couscous over the arugula and top with the roasted tomatoes, including any cooking juices. Spoon the rest of the dressing on top.
The original recipe added 6 oz of tuna, green beans, sliced sweet onions and olives to turn this salad into a Niçoise.
With leftovers, I created a Greek salad which was super good too!