couscous salad with pine nuts and dried fruits

I had the entire week off last week, and it felt wonderful. It’s been a while since I’ve taken a complete week off with my family, and it was way overdue. Disney World and a trip to the beach filled out six days of our break. The rest of the time I spent hanging out at home, cooking, seeing a movie with the kids, and visiting with my parents.

Oh, yeah. And I ran my first 5K, too.

For the past two months, I’ve been learning to run. I am not very fast and I can’t go very far, but I am running.

I can’t even describe how good it feel to say that.

About a month ago, I got an email promoting a charity run to raise money for breast cancer research. I immediately deleted the message without a second thought. Because I am not a runner. Later that morning, a friend at work mentioned it to me and convinced me that we should sign up. My first thought was absolutely not.

Then I thought a little more.

I was right in the middle of a couch-to-5K training program – around week 4 of the 8-week program. So, why not actually try a 5K? Before I could change my mind, I did it. I signed up, paid the registration fee, and I had goal to work for.

On Saturday, I did it. I ran my first 5K and I didn’t die in the process. In fact, it felt great. GREAT.

I may even sign up for another one. Once my shins stop hurting.

*   *   *   *   *

This couscous salad with pine nuts and dried fruits was my post-race snack on Saturday. It was inspired by an addicting couscous salad I had at dinner at the African-themed restaurant, Boma, in the Animal Kingdom Lodge the weekend before. I used preserved lemon in the recipe, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can certainly substitute an equal amount of grated lemon zest. I ate this for a couple of days in a row, and it kept quite nicely in the refrigerator and was as good – if not a little better – on the second day.


Yield: 6 servings

Couscous Salad with Pine Nuts and Dried Fruits


2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
10 ounces couscous
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon preserved lemon, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
2/3 cup chopped pitted dates
2/3 cup chopped dried apricots
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
kosher salt, to taste
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to a boil. Add the couscous and stir for 30 seconds.
Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. Remove cover and fluff with a fork; transfer couscous to a bowl to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, preserved lemon, and cardamom. Drizzle over couscous. Mix in garbanzo beans, dates, almonds, and pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and ground pepper. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.

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19 Responses to “couscous salad with pine nuts and dried fruits”

  1. 1
    Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — April 5, 2011 @ 6:23 pm

    Good for you MJ – so proud of you! And this salad looks a lot like the Dorie recipe from last week (ours was with quinoa) but with chick peas. LOVE this. Lived on some version of this during my years in Paris….

  2. 2
    Errin — April 5, 2011 @ 6:35 pm

    I am often tempted to start some sort of running program. Although I never do becuase I hate running…but I have never really tried it. I think that it just always seems like such a daunting task to start to run. But, it is inspiring to know that another non-runner is out there running and liking it. Congrats on the accomplishment!

    • 2.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — April 6, 2011 @ 8:27 am

      Erin – you can totally do it. I have always hated running…but the feeling afterward makes it so worthwhile.

  3. 3
    Maris (In Good Taste) — April 5, 2011 @ 6:54 pm

    Congrats on the 5K! That is a big accomplishment.Your salad looks quite delicious and I have bookmarked it!

  4. 4
    Liz the Chef — April 5, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

    Love couscous, even healthier with the whole wheat style. Hey, I walked 60 miles 3 times for Komen – think about the Komen3Day! As a runner, you will be ahead of the game as you train. Proud of you – XO Liz

  5. 5
    Paula - bell'alimento — April 5, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

    You’re such an inspiration MJ!

  6. 6
    Tracey — April 6, 2011 @ 8:30 am

    Congratulations on your 5K! I’ve started the couch to 5K program more times than I can tell you, but I’ve never finished it. I just get so bored 🙂

    The salad looks great, I love couscous!

  7. 7
    alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — April 6, 2011 @ 9:57 am

    Congrats girl! This looks delish!

  8. 8
    Aggie — April 6, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

    oh my gosh, isn’t Boma the best? so many dishes I tried there that I wish I could recreate.

    Congrats on your first 5k!! You did it!

    I am such a lover of couscous, can’t beat how fast it cooks up and how versatile it is. This is such a great dish to have in the fridge to eat as leftovers through the week!

  9. 9
    jaclyn — April 6, 2011 @ 8:33 pm

    this couscous salad looks amazing! i’m obsessed with couscous, and i’m always looking for delicious, healthy things to make. yum!

    i’m on week three of couch to 5k! congrats on finishing your first 5k, i’m looking forward to continuing the program and running a 5k by the end of may! my shins always hurt after i run, and i just thought it was me! glad to know it’s somewhat normal!

    also, i’m really excited to meet you at foodblogforum! yay food blogging!

  10. 10
    Annika — April 7, 2011 @ 9:16 am

    Congratulations! This is such an accomplishment and you can be proud of yourself.

    Your salad looks great. I am sure it would be great with braised meat like lamp.

  11. 11
    Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — April 7, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

    Congrats on your first 5K! I started running last July, but haven’t officially run in a 5K or another race yet (though I did survive a running tour of Boston in October w/ my hubby). You’ve inspired me to look for a race to add to my schedule this summer!

    Love that couscous salad, too… Looks amazing!

  12. 12
    Elizabeth — April 12, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

    That looks and sounds so incredibly yummy!

  13. 13


    This sounds amazing!! Great job on the 5k!! I remember how great I felt after my first…no feeling like it. Then it inspired my hubby to start the couch to 5k. This was back in 2004, and we are both in the process of being re-inspired!!

    Just re-read this via stumble…so giving it my thumbs up! We LOVE disney!!!

    My new site is up and running…I love wordpress!!!

    • 13.1
      mj (merry gourmet)
      mj (merry gourmet) — May 5, 2011 @ 7:09 am

      Denise – Congrats on making the WordPress switch! I love it and find it very flexible. And thanks for the stumble! 🙂

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