Last week my husband and I packed up the car and drove nearly 500 miles to Atlanta to celebrate my sister's wedding. I love a good road trip. It gives you time to think and to talk, and to watch the landscape of mountains and fields roll by.
While free of the discomforts of plane travel, car travel does carry its own pitfalls, like the lure of fast food and gas station Slurpees. My strategy is to be prepared with something delicious and easy, like this couscous salad — a refreshing lunch at any time, but especially on a long summer road trip.
This salad bears some resemblance to tabbouleh, but it's heavier on the grains and has even more fresh vegetables. I used thinly sliced cucumbers for crunch and red onion for savor and color, and I tossed in handfuls of cilantro and parsley for fresh flavor. It's lemony and tangy, crunchy and soft, with warmth from a pinch of cumin and chili powder, and salty creaminess from crumbled feta cheese. (The feta is the only non-vegan ingredient in this salad and can be left out.)
This is a salad that doesn't really need to be refrigerated, in spite of the feta cheese, which is quite hardy and will be perfectly fine on a car trip of a few hours.
Of course, this isn't just car fare. I made it again last night and served it with roast chicken, drop biscuits, and a big bowl of garlicky greens. Leftovers will be lunch again, except this time with cold chicken scraps tossed in. It's easy and full of flavor, and quickly adaptable to any other seasonal vegetables that catch your fancy. (Asparagus? Bell pepper? Wilted chard? Fresh zucchini?)
And eating in the car? Couldn't be easier — just bring along a few big spoons and eat it straight from the container, as we did, crossing the Smoky Mountains and enjoying the drive.
Couscous Salad with Cucumber, Red Onion & Herbs
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup couscous
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup loosely packed cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley, finely chopped
1/2 English cucumber, cut lengthwise and very thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, cut in half and shaved extremely thin
1 lemon, zested and juiced, about 3 tablespoons
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup, warmed
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
3 ounces feta cheese, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
Put the couscous in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Cover with a lid or a plate and set aside for 5 minutes. Then remove the lid and fluff with a fork.
Toss the finely chopped herbs with the couscous, as well as the sliced cucumber, onion, and lemon zest.
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey, chili powder, and cumin, then toss this dressing with the couscous. Stir in the pine nuts. Crumble the feta and stir that in as well. Taste and season generously with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately, or refrigerate until ready to serve. Store leftovers in a covered container for up to 5 days.
(Images: Faith Durand)