Asparagus & Tomato Basil Couscous, & a vegan feta!

finished salad_large

There wasn’t much going on in my kitchen this week since I was away (mostly work, but managed to squeeze in a hike featuring falls).  Luckily, I thought ahead and took some pics of this salad I made last weekend. Our local farmer’s market has had beautiful asparagus recently, so I’ve been on a bit of an asparagus tear.  This recipe from Tracy (aka Shutterbean) is definitely a keeper.

Toasted pine nuts give a subtle crunch and almost smoky flavor.

toasting pine nuts

Grape tomatoes to brighten the color.

cut grape tomatoes

Mmm, farm-fresh grilled asparagus.  A grill pan does a pretty darn good job in lieu of the real deal.

grilling asparagus_2

Instead of using traditional or flavored couscous, I opted for whole wheat pearl / Israeli couscous.  I like the added health factor of a whole wheat pasta (yes, couscous is technically pasta) and thought a larger size would work well with the hefty, large bites of veggies.  Instead of fresh mozzarella, I tried out the baked almond feta recipe I found through Poppy’s site.  If you’re looking for a vegan cheese substitute, you should give this a go.  It actually tastes close to real feta (and not at all cardboardy, soy-y, nasty like some of the store brands I’ve tried).

finished salad_small

And give this salad a go too :)

Asparagus & Tomato Basil Couscous – adapted slightly from shutterbean.com

  • 1 cup whole wheat pearl couscous
  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 lb.)
  •  2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  •  Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup baked almond feta, regular feta, or mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • juice of 1/2 lemon

Cook couscous according to instructions on package. Set aside.

Preheat grill/grill pan to medium-high heat. Drizzle asparagus with 1 tbsp. olive oil, season with salt & pepper. Grill 3-4 minutes per side, until charred & slightly tender (you still want a nice bite to it). Transfer asparagus to a cutting board and chop into small pieces. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss cooked couscous with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Stir in pine nuts, tomatoes and asparagus. Gently stir in cheese & basil and squeeze lemon juice on top to finish off the dish. Season with salt & pepper and serve cold or at room temperature.

Yield – 4 servings

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17 thoughts on “Asparagus & Tomato Basil Couscous, & a vegan feta!

  1. The colours look fantastic. I have some pearl cous cous in the cupboard that I haven’t tried yet (I really don’t like the texture of regular cous cous) so this looks like a great recipe to try it with first! I’m pleased you enjoyed the almond feta – I can’t stand the commercially made stuff, it’s horrid! :)

    • I’m with you, regular couscous isn’t my favorite. I think you’ll really like the pearl though. My long-time vegan friend recommends Daiya cheese, but I still haven’t found it in a store nearby (just checked, doesn’t look like it’s in the UK :P). It’s great to have an easy recipe for making it at home.

      • I’ll give it a go tomorrow. Oh yes, I’ve heard of Daiya on many US blogs, it’s always highly rated but the stuff available here that I’ve tried is really not nice, it tastes so artificial (which it is of course!) and of chemicals. That’s why I was so elated that I loved the almond feta!

    • You’re so welcome. The almond feta was easy to make. Mine didn’t come out pure white like the pics from maplespice, so I’m assuming she didn’t use almonds w/ skins. Still tasted great, but the next time I make it I’ll probably try it with slivered almonds.

    • If you want to go the pasta route, a small pasta such as orzo, ditalini, or even a small penne would work. I think a grain such as farro (my personal fav) or quinoa could be subbed. This recipe seems pretty versatile :)

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