cous cous salad with roasted cherry tomatoes and red peppers

It’s a little soon for tomatoes and peppers, but early May and 80 degrees in Boston this weekend, marks the beginning of barbeque season (and the what to bring dilemma.) Come summer time, I’m always on the look-out for fresh and easy dishes that transport well and can sit out on a warm afternoon. My problem with the traditional slaws and potato salads is the slime factor – delicious straight from the fridge, they’re gag-inducing after an hour or two on the patio. A meal in and of itself for a warm night, this salad would also make great company for any kind of grilled seafood or meat. Particularly nice here is the temperature flexibility – eat this warm, room-temp, or cold from the fridge. All delicious, and none slimy in the least. I used Israeli (aka Jerusalem or Middle Eastern) cous cous, but you could easily substitute any small grain – French cous cous, faro, bulger, or orzo. Just cook according to the package directions. Serves 6-8 as a side and 4 as a main course. 

For the Salad

1 ½ cups Israeli cous cous
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 red pepper
A small pinch fennel seeds (about 10)
The finely grated zest of half a lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
¼ cup torn basil leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Boil a medium pot of salted water. Halve the cherry tomatoes and core and roughly chop the red pepper. Crush the fennel seeds with the back of a chef’s knife and chop. In a small oven safe pan, combine the tomatoes, red pepper, fennel seeds, lemon zest, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes. 
Meanwhile, once the water boils, add the cous cous and cook until tender (about 7 minutes.) Drain and set aside in a large bowl. Once the veggies are roasted, toss them along with the basil leaves with the cous cous. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Can be made up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve warm, room temp, or cold.

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