Happy Fourth! Israeli Couscous Salad w/ Heirloom Tomatoes & Spinach-Herb Pesto

We’re pulling out some Café favorites this weekend. Summertime favorites. You know, those delightful treats that, if they could talk, would be shouting ……………

…………… “SUMMER! SUMMER! SUMMER!” Recipes like this fabulous  Israeli Couscous Salad w/ Heirloom Tomatoes & Spinach-Herb Pesto

We posted this one last July but will definitely be enjoying it again for warm weather get-togethers this year.
If you’re looking for a show-stopper recipe for a summer picnic, brunch, pot-luck or for a delightful side for a grilled chicken, beef, pork or seafood dinner, you’ve certainly come to the right place! Every time I serve this, it gets gobbled up, always with rave reviews.
 The flavor is fantastic, but I also love the fact that this salad is loaded with great healthy ingredients; along with the fun Israeli couscous (also called pearl pasta), it’s got heirloom yellow and red tomatoes, tiny sweet peas, lots of flavorful herbs and SIX cups of fresh spinach
Add some good Parmesan, extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest and a splash of fresh lemon juice and you’ve got a recipe for deliciousness. This one’s a keeper, for sure!

Israeli Couscous Salad w/ Heirloom Tomatoes & Spinach-Herb Pesto 
6 cups fresh baby spinach, packed
1 cup fresh herbs, packed ( I used about 3/4 basil, then filled the cup up with thyme and a bit of rosemary – you could use all basil if you don’t have access to a variety of fresh herbs)
2 cups Israeli couscous (12 ounces), (also called pearl pasta)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ cup pine nuts
4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
lemon zest, from one lemon
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
water, as needed
8 ounces tiny frozen peas
2 medium red heirloom tomatoes*, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) dice
4 medium yellow or orange heirloom tomatoes*, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) dice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the 6 cups of spinach and blanch for 10 seconds. Add the fresh herbs and immediately, with a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach-herb mixture to a colander. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking, then drain.
2. Wait until water returns to a boil, then add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain the couscous and spread it out on a large baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and toss to prevent clumping. Add the tiny peas and toss again. Let the couscous-pea mixture cool to room temperature.
3. In a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat, tossing, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Let cool.
4. Squeeze the excess water from the spinach-herb mixture and coarsely chop it. Transfer to bowl of food processor. Add the pine nuts, garlic, cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, sea salt, pepper and olive oil and process until mixture is fairly smooth. If too thick, add a bit of water to make a consistency that will blend into the couscous. Taste and season with more sea salt and pepper as needed.
5. Transfer the couscous and peas to a large serving bowl and stir in some of the pesto (you might not need all of the pesto – start with about half and add more to taste. Use any left over for a pizza or pita pizza base, as a sandwich spread or you could even spread a little goat cheese on some crostini and add a dollop of this pesto, delicious!)  Gently fold in the tomatoes. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve.
* ~ If you don’t have heirloom tomatoes, any type of summer tomato will do,  just be sure to use a ripe juicy tomato, not a hothouse grocery store variety.
Adapted from Food and Wine

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