This Strawberry, Feta and Chicken Couscous Salad is perfect for a filling lunch, light dinner or — without the chicken — a perfect side dish to any summer grilled protein. Beautiful, refreshing and so easy!
Clearly I’ve got spring and summer on the brain since the majority of my posts as of late – including today’s Strawberry, Feta and Chicken Couscous Salad – have involved warm weather produce in some way, shape or form. While I mostly try to only buy what’s in season, both for monetary and freshness reasons, I just couldn’t help myself from picking up a couple pints of strawberries last week as a last stitch effort to bring some sunshine and warmth in to my life – and I think it worked because we’re fresh off a beautiful SUNNY and 70-degree weekend.
As I mentioned last week, when working with tomatoes or berries that aren’t quite up to par yet, giving them a little boost in the right direction can work wonders on the their texture and taste. For example, last week, I chopped under ripe tomatoes, and instead of serving them right away, I let them sit in a seasoning mixture of salt, olive oil and garlic to bring out their innate juiciness. Today, before I did anything else, I cut the strawberries up, sprinkled them with a little bit of sugar, a splash of balsamic vinegar and let them soak while I prepared everything else. Like the tomatoes, the sugar and vinegar help bring out the juices in the strawberries and mimic what they should taste like at the height of their prime.
Of course, if you’re lucky enough to live in a place where you already have ripe berries and tomatoes, this need not apply to you – and oh, how I envy you.
The combination of strawberries and feta isn’t a new flavor profile around here, or anywhere, but it’s one I especially love this time of year. As is, this is a wonderful lunch or even dinner, but without the chicken, this salad would the perfect accompaniment to any spring or summer meal (especially this crispy chicken).
I feel like couscous has sort of fallen off the radar in recent years. I don’t know if it was just me, but when I was a kid, we had couscous all the time, in fact, it was one of my favorite starchy side dishes and I picked up a box of this already-made version well in to my college years.
Some people think couscous is in the same family as quinoa, but it’s actually teeny tiny particles of pasta, semolina to be exact, which explains why I love it so much. The beauty of it, is its ability to quickly cook, unlike some of its other starchy competition, making it a side dish easy to throw together even on the busiest of nights. While I’m partial to the couscous here, you could also swap it out for farro, quinoa, or even traditional pasta.
The basic anatomy of the salad is simple – cooked (and cooled) couscous, strawberries, feta, grilled or sautéed chicken, pine nuts and a bit of chopped parsley. Before everything is tossed together, the couscous gets mixed with a scant amount of homemade balsamic vinaigrette, and then the remaining ingredients are gently tossed in as well.
Again, this makes a great filling lunch, a light dinner or a wonderful side dish to whatever you’ve got cooking up on the grill. It’s perfect for summer, but it will give you a taste of what’s to come now…
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup uncooked couscous
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 small chicken breast (about ¼ pound)
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. onion powder
- ½ tsp. paprika
- 1 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp. dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. honey
- ¼ tsp. salt
- ⅛ tsp. pepper
- 2 cups chopped strawberries (*see note)
- 1 cup crumbled feta
- ½ cup pine nuts
- ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- Add water and ¼ tsp. salt to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn the heat off and stir in couscous with a fork. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and spread on to a baking sheet. Pop in the freezer until cooled, about 5-10 minutes. (Can be made up to a day in advance.)
- Cut chicken in half lengthwise,. Evenly sprinkle all sides of chicken with garlic powder, onion powder, paprika and ¼ tsp. salt. Heat a small skillet to a medium heat. Add 2 tsp. olive oil. Cook chicken until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Let cool slightly and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
- In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar, mustard, honey, remaining salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
- Toss cooled couscous with dressing. Add in chicken, strawberries, feta, pine nuts and parsley. Toss until combined. Season with salt and pepper.
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