When the tomatoes are heavy on the vine and the sun is high in the sky, you crave the simple, light fare of summer. Fresh and easy salad meals are all you need, especially when you find yourself with some colorful, flavorful tomatoes. That’s when a quick couscous salad can save the day, and show off the fleeting joy of truly ripe local tomatoes.

This Tomato-Herb Couscous Salad is quick and flexible, and can easily become a main course with the addition of beans, nuts or cheese.

Couscous can easily be mistaken for a whole grain, when it’s really more of a pasta. It looks like little bits of pale cracked wheat, but it’s actually made from semolina flour. The variety sold in most grocery stores is Moroccan, and resembles a really coarse cornmeal. It’s precooked so all you have to do is rehydrate it. That’s what you’ll use in this recipe.

At the grocery store, you might also find Israeli couscous, which looks more like peppercorn-sized round pasta, and takes longer to cook than the Moroccan kind. There’s also a larger, pea-sized couscous that’s Lebanese in origin, which cooks in about the same time as white rice. Another option is a whole-wheat couscous, a whole-grain choice that is nearly indistinguishable from the refined version, so it’s worth seeking out.

Couscous is the ideal summer salad ingredient because it takes only a few minutes to prepare; it’s even faster than pasta. You simply add boiling liquid and cover the pan, and before you have time to chop the tomatoes, it is ready.

The best tomato to use in any dish is always the tomato that is ripe and flavorful. Most tomatoes grown locally will have been picked ripe, and those last days on the vine are when the fruit develops superior taste.

When I make this dish, I use heirloom tomatoes, in a rainbow assortment of green, yellow and red. The term “heirloom” signals great flavor. So much tomato flavor means you don’t need to do much, just show them off in this easy salad.


Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author at robinasbell.com.