Here’s a wonderfully refreshing summer salad that can take the place of potato salad or pasta salad at a backyard barbecue. The classic tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern salad is made with bulgur (cracked wheat) not couscous. But I prefer this version, which is based on a recipe developed many years ago by Zanne Stewart, Gourmet’s executive food editor. A staple of Middle Eastern cuisine, couscous is nothing more than tiny grains of semolina pasta. Although it can take hours to prepare in its native lands, most of the couscous sold in American supermarkets these days is of a very acceptable quick-cooking variety that steams up in 5 minutes.
The herbs are absolutely key to the recipe. Make sure you add them at the last moment and taste the salad for seasoning—additional salt and pepper—right before you serve it. (All salads tend to flatten out in flavor as they sit.)
1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups couscous
8 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Kosher salt to taste
1 English cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 to 3 scallions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Several large lettuce leaves for garnish
2 cups firmly packed fresh parsley leaves, minced
1 cup firmly packed fresh mint leaves, minced
Combine the stock, 1 cup water, half of the lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork and cool in the pan.
Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and drain in a large strainer for 10 to 15 minutes. Combine the cucumber, tomato, scallions, and garlic with the remaining lemon juice and oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 15 minutes. Stir in the couscous. Mix well, season again with salt and pepper, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Line a large platter with lettuce leaves. Stir the parsley and mint into the couscous. Mound the tabbouleh in the center of the platter and serve cold.