Empty-The-Fridge Salad with Herby Couscous
Party leftovers + random fridge findings + pantry staples = a colorful fresh salad that requires no shopping but is pretty enough to take to another party and impress your friends. Victory!
As mentioned in my last banh mi sandwich post, we had a lot of leftovers from a recent get-together, particularly the odds & ends from a few crudites platters. These included baby carrots and radishes, already sliced and with their tops stored in the fridge like salad greens. These roots were starting to show their age just the tiniest bit, so I drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them for about 20 minutes. Not only did they look great again, but adding roasted veggies to a raw salad made for a more textured and multidimensional dish.
Then, what to do with the tops and greens? Radish greens and carrot tops are great for pestos and creamy sauces, so I whizzed them up in the food processor with olive oil and salt, then stirred in some ricotta cheese to make it rich and creamy. It felt like a bit of a heavy sauce for just veggies though, so I cooked some couscous (easiest green to make - took like 10 minutes!) and folded it into the sauce. Perfect way to add some flavor and seasoning to the starch while using up all the extra bits! Lastly, I gathered up all the extra veggies in the kitchen - a rainbow of peppers and ever-so-slightly-wrinkled grape tomatoes - and sliced them up.
With all the components ready, preparing the dish just required layering everything in a bowl. I started with an assortment of greens on the bottom, which I left plain because I knew the salad wouldn't be eaten for a few hours. I didn't want them to get wet and sludgy underneath all the other ingredients, so I figured I'd dress them closer to dinnertime. However, if you're eating the salad right away, you could dress the greens first. I scattered the couscous on top of the greens, then laid down my roasted veggies, also tossed in the ricotta+radish greens dip. The last touch was to toss my bright fresh vegetables on top for the most visual impact.
Right before serving, I drizzled lots of fruity olive oil and squeezed half a lemon on top and dusted the whole dish with good sea salt. Toss and taste, then repeat as necessary until the leaves taste so good you don't want to stop eating, which means the other ingredients are likely to be well seasoned too. Enjoy!
The Rough Recipe
This large bowl was a perfect side dish for a Memorial Day barbecue, supplementing burgers and beer for about a dozen adults. Total assembly took a leisurely 40 minutes, but could be less depending on your ingredients. Make it vegan by using an herby sauce instead of a creamy one, and gluten-free with rice or a non-glutinous grain.
Here's what you'll need:
- a bunch of carrots or radishes with the greens separated, or a combination - I was using leftovers so I had about half a bunch of each - or any slightly older veggies that you want to roast, from broccoli to fennel to onions
- a sheet pan/rimmed baking sheet
- extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt
- 1 cup of dried couscous or whole grain of your choice
- Roughly 3/4 cup of Herby Green Sauce or Creamy Green Dip, using the carrot tops and/or radish greens (or other flavorful leaves or fresh herbs if none of your veggies came with leaves) or pre-made from the fridge
- a few handfuls of any leafy greens you want to eat raw, lighter leaves or heartier greens, torn into bite-size pieces
- 1-2 cups of sliced fresh veggies, such as peppers, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, asparagus, etc.
- half a lemon, or the vinegar of your choice
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and put 1 and 1/4 cups of water to boil in a small saucepan.
Prep your carrots or radishes by cutting into halves or quarters. This would actually be a great time to roast more than you need for this salad, so you'll have some for eating over the next few days. Consider throwing in any tougher or older vegetables to roast using this description. Lay them out on the sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast until lightly browned and tender, usually about 15-20 minutes.
Once the water reaches a boil, add the couscous and a pinch of salt to the saucepan and stir briefly. Cover with a plate or pan lid, then let steam. After 8-10 minutes or once the water is absorbed, stir the couscous thoroughly and then spread it out on a plate to cool, breaking up any clumps with a fork or your fingers. Once cool, add to a large bowl with about half a cup of your sauce or dip and toss to combine. If your sauce is very thick, you may want to add extra olive oil. Taste, then add more salt or olive oil, or a bit of brightness with lemon juice or vinegar, if desired.
Add your greens to a wide shallow bowl or platter, and scatter the couscous on top. If you have extra couscous, just put it in the refrigerator to eat later - it's good on its own or tossed on another salad or as the base of a Grain Bowl. If you have extra sauce, you can toss it with your roasted veggies or leave them plain, up to you. You can also stash extra sauce in the fridge - find more uses on each of the sauce posts. Add them to the salad, then add the fresh veggies.
Right before serving, drizzle on more olive oil and squeeze the lemon on top of the salad with some more salt. Toss and taste, then repeat as necessary until everything tastes delicious. Enjoy!