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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10 Responses to “as american as apple pie”

  1. Brian @ A Thought For Food — November 1, 2012 @ 9:32 am

    A beautiful post, MJ. Thankfully we are fine here in Boston… but NJ (and NYC), my home state, is very sad looking right now. Thank you for this very sweet post… it’s good for people to know that they can do something to help.

  2. Merry-Jennifer
    Merry-Jennifer — November 1, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    I’m glad you and E are doing okay, Brian. Such an awful thing to have happened. I hope any family you may have back home is safe and sound.

  3. Rachel Cooks — November 2, 2012 @ 7:51 am

    Beautiful post.

  4. Anina @ Aninas Recipes — November 6, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

    Hi MJ.
    I think this is an absolutely lovely post. I live in Johannesburg, South Africa – and seldom (or never) are we threatened by natural disasters. I cannot even imagine what these people must go through. All my love and prayers to those affected. OH – and great recipe, so beautifully put together – and I LOVE cinnamon!! xxx

  5. Simply gorgeous MJ – both the pie and your well written words.

  6. Jenn — November 8, 2012 @ 8:03 am

    Merry, thanks so much for your wonderful thoughts and generous words, for the apple pie and most importantly for spreading the word out about ways to help out the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Together I hope we can all make a difference to aid those in need.

  7. Paula — November 8, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    You express your thoughts as beautifully as you bake.

  8. Barbara | Creative Culinary — November 8, 2012 @ 10:26 am

    You’ve expressed what so many of us are feeling and I’m sure your generosity of spirit along with a quintessential American pie is comforting to many.

  9. Pingback: A is for Apple Pie - Johanna Bailey

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