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Couscous Salad w/ Almonds, Raisins and Saffron Onions

Joyce Goldstein doesn’t mince words, particularly when it comes to Mediterranean cuisine. Take the time culinary legend Julia Child questioned Joyce’s embrace of the Mediterranean diet. “She was not impressed with it because it had such small portions of meat and not much dairy,” recalled Joyce. “I told her my father died at 47 of a heart attack and I was not blessed with her metabolism and gene pool to survive all that saturated fat!”

Photo: www.andrebaranowskiphoto.com

Joyce Goldstein has embraced the Mediterranean diet with a bear hug. A San Francisco chef, Joyce operated the pioneering Mediterranean restaurant Square One for a dozen years from 1984 to 1996. She garnered numerous accolades and awards.   Today, at 75, Joyce remains a strong proponent of Mediterranean cuisine while continuing to teach, consult and churn out cookbooks.

Her book Mediterranean Fresh (W.W. Norton & Co., 2008), focuses on salads from the region. One dish that caught our eye is a beautiful couscous salad with toasted almonds, raisins, and saffron-infused onions.

Couscous is a staple grain product throughout North Africa. Couscous salad, however, is not a traditional dish from the region. “But this is a salad with Moroccan flavors and Americans love it,” Joyce told us.

The dish can be assembled quickly. The raisins are “plumped” for a short period in hot water. Meanwhile, a quarter teaspoon of saffron is allowed to steep in hot water for 15 minutes. The saffron infusion and some orange zest are later added to onions sautéed in extra virgin olive oil.

The couscous itself takes very little time to prepare. Joyce boils a cup of water along with a cup of fresh orange juice, cinnamon, ginger, cumin and salt. The boiling water is poured over the couscous and the pan is then covered tightly with foil. It takes only about 10 minutes before the couscous is ready to be fluffed with a fork.

The couscous is tossed with the raisins, onions, slivered almonds and a citrus dressing made using fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

Joyce recommends serving this couscous mounded on a platter and surrounded by slices of fresh fruit and mint leaves or watercress — or, as is, in a salad bowl.

“It’s excellent with fresh fruit additions like sliced peaches, apricots, melon, etc.,” said Joyce, who suggests using a delicate EVOO such as our Arbequina to make the dressing. “It’s seasonal for the next few months with all of the fruit on hand.”

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch


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