As it turns out, one of the happier features of law school and, now, law firm life is the dependable occurrence of free lunches at least once a week–whether for a talk, or a deposition, or just inexplicably placed in a breakroom and abandoned for three hours (that’s okay, I’ll still eat it). As someone who will happily consume anything that’s offered to me for free, I am a big fan of this, and I have hardly met a catered work lunch that I did not like. (Which is a good thing, since I’ve been seeing a little bit more of work lately than I have for awhile!) That said, it makes for an extra delightful surprise when, in the vast landscape of half-sandwich platters, there manages to appear something new that I like so much that, free of the confines of fluorescent lights and conference rooms, I’d still happily search out on my own dime.
This couscous, sunny yellow and fragrant, popped up in a spread a few weeks ago from the always-tasty Mendocino Farms, and it was the kind of colorful medley of flavors and textures that had me instantly ferreting out a way to make it again at home. There’s nutty savoriness and crunch from roasted cauliflower, it’s subtly sweet from roasted carrots and brown sugar, earthy from curry spices and creamy from a touch of mayonnaise (vegan, in Mendo’s version). And since I always find regular couscous to be a little anemic, too tiny to have substance, I especially love the chewy, substantial bounce of larger pearl couscous, clustered together like confetti and a satisfying backdrop to the crunchy roasted vegetables. To top it all off, I couldn’t resist adding a handful of tiny currants (inspired by this related cauliflower-based–and work-food-based–gem) for a pop of extra sweetness, and replacing a bit of the mayo with yogurt for a fresh tang. Sweet, savory, smoky, crunchy, and just a little bit spicy, I think this grown-up version of a pasta salad would be at home at any picnic this summer.
Speaking of picnics and summer, this one has crept up on me before I knew it, but I hope you’re all having wonderful, sunny, relaxed ones!
Inspired by Mendocino Farms.
- 8 ounces pearl couscous, barley, or fregola
- 3 to 4 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 small head cauliflower)
- 1 tablespoon curry powder
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, divided
- 3 tablespoons oil, divided
- 1 cup finely diced carrot (about 1 to 2 carrots)
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- ⅓ cup Greek yogurt
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup currants, or more to taste
- 1-2 tablespoons lime juice
- Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Rinse in cold water, drain well, and set aside. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- In a small bowl, mix together the curry powder, turmeric, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne, and 2 tablespoons brown sugar. In a separate large bowl, toss the cauliflower with about ¾ of the spices and 2 tablespoons oil, or as much as needed to coat. Spread out on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until cauliflower is browned around the edges but still crunchy, about 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to let cool.
- In the same large bowl, toss the carrots with the remaining ¼ of the spice mixture and 1 tablespoon oil. On the same rimmed baking sheet, roast the carrots until fragrant but still crunchy, about 5 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
- Return the couscous, cauliflower, and carrots to the same large bowl as before. Fold in the mayonnaise, cilantro, currants, and lime juice. Taste, and adjust with more spices, and the remaining brown sugar, if desired. Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve.