At last, the Northeast weather finally caught up with the season and the frost blanketing Asbury Park has thawed. The boardwalk is filled with runners stripped of their fleece hats and gloves, Ocean Avenue is paved with leather-clad bikers out for a joyride, and the beaches are sprinkled with the die-hard sunworshippers paying homage to their long lost friend. Spring at the Jersey shore is a cherished time to me, but I speculate it’s especially welcome by the broader population, as well, after this year’s frigid and tumultuous winter. It means Havaianas, rolled up jeans, and tank tops every day from now until it’s officially summer. It means loading up the cooler for beach side picnics, consistently perfect running weather (not too hot, not too cold), and late Sunday afternoons on the sand long after the daytrippers peel out.
Today’s salad is picnic-perfect: it can be served hot, cold, or anywhere in between. It works well as a side, but can also stand on its own as a complete meal with protein, complex carbs, and healthy fat. This recipe is inspired by a Mediterranean couscous salad I often picked up at Garden of Eden during my years in Hoboken. Because I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate more whole grains into my diet, I substituted whole wheat couscous to amp up the heart healthy goodness. I’m bringing this to our first beach-side picnic this weekend and will serve it alongside pressed sandwiches. Time to throw on a hoody, pull out that rusty old beach chair, soak up the sun and take in all of the visitors joining us for the NJ Marathon this weekend… Happy trails, runners!
1 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 tsp. salt, divided
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1/2 cup of dried cranberries
1 1/4 cups of wheat couscous
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 green onions, white and green parts sliced
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
Combine stock, 1 tablespoon of oil, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a small pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Add raisins and dried cranberries and boil for 1 minute. Stir in couscous, shut off heat, and cover with a lid. Let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in chicpeas, green onions, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pepper. Serve immediately or chill. A few notes:
- I like Near East’s couscous.
- I think quinoa would make a brilliant swap for the couscous and rev up the protein.
- Consider adding some feta or goat cheese crumbles for more zing if that’s your thing.
- Another way to brighten up this dish: squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top. I tried this today and it was delish!
- This keeps well in the refrigerator for up to one week.