A beautiful Spring-Summer salad inspired by Antipasto – pickled and preserved roast veggies, olives and creamy feta cheese. This Antipasto Couscous Salad is great warm or cold from the fridge and has been the star of many a Spring picnic potluck in the sun.
Recreating An Antipasto Couscous Salad from a deli salad box
They put out a jar of biscuits at the coffee break on the two nights that I am at college. Pure evil! I think I might have survived my first month back at college due to that jar. Last night though, I tried to knock some sense in my noggin’ and I managed to convince myself to stay away from that dratted jar for the rest of the year. I am good at self-discipline, so that should be a piece of cake or maybe a biscuit?
Not all my college food breaks are biscuit-ridden. Amidst wholesome muffins, museli bars, fruit and nut powerballs, a healthy cookie, lots of apples, a smoothie or two and a ritualistic cup of coffee; I do alright. We have a Coles close to college that sells local handmade food (yes, I was impressed!). The farmer’s sandwich I bought once was good but what really won my heart was a sun-dried tomato and spinach couscous box that was out of this world. While I devoured most of it on my train ride back home, I kept the rest to deconstruct the next day. That weekend I managed to recreate perfectly the textures and fresh flavours of the nutrient-packed salad. To my absolute delight, I found that it tasted as beautiful cold as it did warm. Jackpot! Perfect picnic food indeed.
A Mix And Match Canvas inspired by Italy and Greece
I call this Antipasto inspired salad, Lunchbox Couscous because I have packed it with way too many ingredients to give it an ingredient-driven name and because it has become a lunch favourite. On those rare days when I am working alone at home and the weather is gorgeous, I like to take my lunch out in the garden and work under the shade of our giant gum tree. On some weekends, I cook a huge batch. I then pack it in four lunchboxes and store it in the fridge for the rest of the week. Everyone is welcome to it. It doesn’t last past Tuesday.
This recipe is a really good example of how you can own your salad. Although the original base recipe (which was also published in my cookbook) has sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta cheese, I often add marinated artichoke and roasted pickled capsicum. Some of this is reflected in the updated recipe below.
My choice of cheese nowadays is Goat’s cheese. The sharp saltiness of the goat’s cheese renders itself beautifully against the creaminess and sweetness of the roast pumpkin. A handful of raw onion slices or radish adds a hit of spice. I could eat a big bowlful of this anytime of the week. It is simple but really special.
- 1 small butternut pumpkin
- 2 cups couscous, dry
- 2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon thyme, dried
- 1 teaspoon rosemary, dried
- 1 teaspoon oregano, dried
- 1 teaspoon garlic granules
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup spring onion, sliced (green only)
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 cup roasted pickled capsicum, chopped
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
- 200 g goat's milk feta cheese, cubed
- extra olive oil - for drizzling
- freshly cracked black pepper
- Heat oven to 200°C (180°C fan-forced). Line a rimmed baking sheet with baking paper. Trim and peel the butternut pumpkin. Remove the seeds and membrane. Cut into 2 inch cubes. Add the cubes to the baking sheet. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes until tender and golden. Remove from oven and set aside.
- Bring water, salt, chilli flakes, paprika, thyme, rosemary, oregano, garlic granules and olive oil to a boil in a large saucepan. Remove from heat. Add the couscous and vinegar and set aside for 20-30 minutes until completely cooled and the water has been absorbed. Fluff up the couscous gently with a fork.
- Add lime juice, spinach, spring onion, sun-dried tomatoes, capsicum and olives. Mix well. Add feta cheese and roasted pumpkin. Toss gently to combine. Drizzle with a dash of olive oil and sprinkle with black pepper. Mix gently, check and adjust seasoning. Serve in an air-tight glass container in the fridge for up to 4 days.