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Tomato-Basil Cousous Is Picnic Perfection

The classic pairing of tomato and basil is always great over grilled bread, but mix it with Israeli couscous and it becomes a splendid summer salad.

One of my favorite signs that summer has arrived is biting into a tomato that’s been sprinkled with some fresh basil, and realizing that it actually is fresh!

Every summer I remember what a fresh tomato tastes like — and every summer I tell myself that I’m going to build a greenhouse so that I can have this all year round. (It’s yet to happen… maybe next summer?)

A classic bruschetta is often how I get my tomato-basil fix, but lately I found a way to transform that bruschetta into a salad — replacing the grilled bread with Israeli couscous — so that it’s better fit for a picnic. This is a dish that’s great both hot and cold, it travels super well and it’s a delicious way to get a big taste of summer in every bite.

Tomato Basil Couscous

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1½ cup Israeli couscous
2½ cups water
1 heaping cup grape tomatoes
1½ tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup shredded Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
About 8 large basil leaves

1) In a large pot set over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5–7 minutes. Add the garlic, a good pinch of salt and a few turns of black pepper, and cook for one more minute. Add the Israeli couscous and cook, stirring, until slightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Add the water. Increase the heat to high to bring it to a boil and then decrease to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until all of the liquid has absorbed into the couscous.

2) Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes in half lengthwise, and then lengthwise again, so that they’re in quarters. Sprinkle them with salt. Chop the basil leaves.

3) When the couscous is finished cooking, transfer it to a large bowl. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, Parmesan and basil leaves. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Top with additional Parmesan. Serve immediately or chill it and serve it cold.

Molly Yeh is a frequent contributor to the Forward. Her blog is

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