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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45 Responses to “couscous salad with blue cheese and dried cranberries & the naptime chef cookbook giveaway”

  1. Vaishali — March 8, 2012 @ 10:16 am

    My go to weeknight meal is lentils and rice. Very quick and easy to cook after 8-hr long work day..:)

  2. jen @ one curly fry — March 8, 2012 @ 10:41 am

    That Couscous salad looks amazing!!! I need to make this ASAP! That’s so much for sharing!

  3. Zsofi — March 8, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    I’ve become best friends with my slow cooker in the past few months. Why didn’t I think of it before? One of our favorite meals is a lentil, zucchini, and beef stew that cooks all day in the crockpot and fills the house with an amazing aroma by the time we get home!

  4. randjm — March 8, 2012 @ 10:59 am

    I don’t think I have a favorite, since I have this annoying need to try new recipes all the time! But a standard backfall I love is definitely quesadillas. And how do I fit it in? Mealplan, mealplan, mealplan.

  5. amy marantino — March 8, 2012 @ 12:14 pm

    spaghetti with meatballs. i make the sauce and meatballs ahead of time and keep it in the freezer.

  6. Robyn — March 8, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

    Does re-heating leftovers count?

  7. martina — March 8, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

    we do a lot of spruced up grilled cheese {fave is gruyere, fig jam, & prosciutto} and homemade soups {williams & sonoma roasted tomato is to die for and keeps well}. it feels fancy but it’s SO easy….even after 12 hour shifts and 30 hour calls 😉 our picky eater loves to “dip dip” and will actually eat pretty much everything on her plate!

  8. Mb — March 8, 2012 @ 1:00 pm

    roasted veggies and quinoa!

  9. DessertForTwo — March 8, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

    Lately, my favorite meal is a ‘one-pan-bake.’ I’ll brush chicken breasts with mayonaisse, sprinkle on breadcrumbs & parmesan cheese, and then place them on a foil-lined baking sheet. Then, on the other half of the baking sheet, I’ll add some broccoli, cauliflower or carrots tossed with olive oil & herbs. It all roasts together! One pan, easy clean-up! Love it 🙂

  10. TK — March 8, 2012 @ 3:23 pm

    I love making a simple pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs along with some garlic bread.

  11. Kristin — March 8, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

    Tacos! Make a little guacamole and some pico and you’ve got the best dinner in town!

  12. jenna — March 8, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

    Grilled salmon , roasted carrots (with honey & cumin) and a microwave rissoto.

  13. tina — March 8, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

    I don’t often make the same thing twice, but I usually have the makings for chicken tacos on hand, so that in a pinch that’s what we can eat.

  14. Jenny — March 8, 2012 @ 6:44 pm

    I try to keep variety in our menus … but if I’m limited on time – a quick pizza, panini or pasta dish is my go to. I follow you on Facebook and Twitter 🙂

  15. Beth S — March 8, 2012 @ 7:00 pm

    I loved the chicken, broccoli and ziti at a local restaurant (but no broccoli for me, LOL) and decided to try and make it at home. Now that I’ve been making it a while, I can whip it up pretty quickly. My 3 boys love it and consider it a real treat, too.

  16. Elizabeth — March 8, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

    Our go-to weeknight dinner is pan-fried tilapia and pecan rice, because we always have the ingredients on hand!

  17. Barbara — March 9, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    That Couscous salad looks amazing, thanks for sharing! My go to weeknight meal is Spaghetti al pomodoro. Very quick and easy to cook after 8-hr long work day..:)

  18. Christy Rose — March 9, 2012 @ 11:35 am

    Taco Tuesdays! Super easy and always a crowd pleaser!

  19. Meg S — March 9, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

    My go to meal is spaghetti. I need something else though! Not sure how much more of it I can eat…

  20. Melissa — March 10, 2012 @ 4:23 am

    My old standby weeknight meal is chicken sausage (there are so many great and healthy varieties available now), quinoa, and a green salad. It is so quick to pull this together, and we always love it.

  21. Jennifer — March 10, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

    Anything using rotisierre chicken..sandwiches, fajitas, salad, sandwich….then throw the carcass in a crockpot with veggies and make a soup for the next day!

  22. Karen Lynch — March 10, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

    My favorite weeknight meal is soups or stews. I use the crockpot. It means getting up a little earlier to get the crockpot going but having dinner ready in the evening is such a relief to the hectic evening of getting family sorted for the evening.

  23. Flavia — March 10, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

    Although I don’t have children, my days can get busy, but despite the busy days, during the week {and on most weekends}, I always cook a homemade meal. One of my favorite weeknight meals to make for me and my husband is “Pasta al Forno”, which is baked rigatoni bathed in a lush béchamel sauce with diced ham and sautéed zucchini added. It’s topped with a light dusting a Parmigiano cheese before going into the oven for about 30 minutes to heat through completely. I love this dish because I can make it in advance up to the assembly and then refrigerate it. When I’m ready to get dinner on the table, I take the pasta out of the refrigerator and let it stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes to take the chill off. I then pop it in the oven and dinner is served within 30 minutes. I like to serve this with a simple green salad on the side.

  24. Michelle Christensen — March 10, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

    My go to weeknight meal is usually spaghetti or some kind of casserole. They’re so fast and easy I don’t need to do much to fit them into my schedule.

  25. Lane Gulotta — March 10, 2012 @ 8:10 pm

    We make homemade tomato sauce, pizza dough and other things in large batches to freeze. During the week we can defrost and decide what to make in less than 20 minutes. Our go to meal is usually homemade pasta and tomato sauce with basil.

  26. Michelle Murphy — March 11, 2012 @ 12:25 am

    My favorite weeknight meal is an AWESOME turkey chili from Gina, at It’s quick to prepare, delicious, and HEALTHY!

  27. Jamie — March 11, 2012 @ 8:02 pm

    My favorite weeknight meal would have to be a soup, stew or any dish made in the crockpot. It is a huge timesaving to come home from work and already have the majority of dinner made.

  28. Jonnie (JB) — March 12, 2012 @ 12:26 am

    My favorite weeknight meal is lasagna because my whole family loves it and the leftovers are awesome. I fit it in my preparing the cheese and veggies ahead of time and using no-boil noodles.

  29. Pingback: The Naptime Chef Virtual Book Tour | The Naptime Chef

  30. SANDY — March 12, 2012 @ 8:38 am

    spaghetti- or brains as my kids call it

  31. Miranda — March 12, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    I like to make spaghetti with meat sauce in the morning. It tastes better later in the day.

  32. Di — March 12, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

    Week-night fare has to be quick and light. Working in New York and commuting everyday precludes complex prep of any kind. Since we do not have children and my husband’s firefighter schedule often leaves me home alone, hors deurves has become my go-to M-Th. nights when I’m by myself. I love prepared pesto….I enjoy it on top of paper thin italian bread slices drizzled with olive oil, lightly toasted and topped with fresh mozzarella and sliced tomatoes or red roasted peppers. A glass of chianti on the side and I’m a happy camper. Another favorite is a mini pita pocket, lightly toasted and stuffed with hummus, greens, a slice of tomato and a splash of vinegarette.

  33. Scorpio Woman — March 12, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

    My favorite weeknight meal is sloppy joes. I do the meat mixture on Sunday and then just reheat in the microwave and heat the breads. So easy. And everybody’s happy!

  34. Mikala R. — March 13, 2012 @ 10:49 am

    My favorite weeknight meal is omelets. They are quick and can be customized to each person’s tastes!

  35. Angie — March 13, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

    My favorite, easy weeknight meal is tacos – whatever I have around, chicken, light ground beef or black beans with roasted veggies, on Ricardo and Maria tortillas (this part is sacred and completely necessary). Normally during the summer I have fresh avocado and tomato, otherwise just a dollop of sour cream. Super easy and always delicious.

  36. Jillian Camwell — March 13, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

    I love making quiche for a busy weeknight meal…a quick one! And both my boys (2 & 4 years) eat it! We get in our protein & veggies, I can use whatever I have on-hand (fresh or freezer), and the best part is the timing! It takes 10 minutes of prep time, which I do about 10 minutes before my youngest is up from his nap at 4pm. I pop it in the oven at 4pm, get Baby Boy up, play with both boys, and it’s ready by the time Daddy is home at 5pm. I serve it with a simple salad, fresh fruit and crusty bread. Our favorite quiche is definitely spinach, onions, and mushrooms. With a pre-made piecrust, it’s a snap!

  37. Kristin — March 13, 2012 @ 7:02 pm

    My favorite thing to serve is a white bean soup, with french bread and cheese melted on top. It’s sooo good. And sadly, because I’m currently unemployed, I have plenty of time to make it! Not sure how I’ll continue was I get a job… Maybe massive cooking days on the weekend?

  38. Emily — March 13, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

    Lasagna! I make a large batch of healthy lasagna with tons of spinach, ground turkey, and whole wheat noodles and freeze it in 2 pans….that way I have two meals I can thaw it out and stick it in the oven for a quick dinner if needed.

  39. Patti — March 13, 2012 @ 11:39 pm

    I am a busy working mom of 2, a 7 yr old who will eat anything and a 3 yr old who won’t eat anything I make. I have 30 min from the time I get home til the meltdowns begin and they cry for snacks. I usually make some kind of grilled or baked chicken, a veggtable and starch. But my favorite is when I crank up the slow cooker in the morining and make Salsa chicken. 4 frozen bonless skinless breasts with 1/2 c of salsa on low for 8 hours. Perfect for tacos, and quesidillas.

  40. Kimberly P. — March 13, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

    My go to recipe for busy days is Pepperoncini beef sandwiches and the only way it’s possible is by utilizing my slow cooker! I couldn’t get my without it!

  41. barbi — March 14, 2012 @ 12:23 am

    spaghetti, so easy and quick to make. I always have the ingredients on hand.

  42. Krisla — March 15, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    I made pulled pork the other day for my family. It’s super easy since you put everything in a slow cooker and leave it for a few hours.

  43. Lyndsey @ Sit. Stay. Cook. — March 15, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

    I love to pan-sear salmon, then serve it over rice with a quick sauce and sauteed vegetables. Trader Joe’s frozen Jasmine rice helps out huge on weeknights – takes 3 minutes in the microwave instead of 40 in a rice cooker.

  44. Anna — March 15, 2012 @ 4:00 pm

    I try to make something nice like a butternut squash pasta sauce with basil – my family loves it. And on a weekend I love to cook and my kids helps me.

  45. marla — March 17, 2012 @ 11:41 am

    LOVE this book + this recipe for couscous 🙂

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