created at: 2014-02-27This winter has been very long and very, very cold. But there is a light at the end of the frigid, wintry tunnel, and it occurs on Sunday, March 9. That’s daylight saving time, and I’m looking forward to it even more than usual this year. So much so that this week, I decided to create an Israeli couscous and beet salad in honor of the upcoming prolonged daylight.

My love for Israeli couscous is well documented on this blog. (See here and here.) But another ingredient I eat a lot of in the winter is beets. They’re healthy and inexpensive, and since they take so long to cook, I can justify buying them already cooked. (Is it still considered a “convenience product” if it’s a healthy vegetable?)

Putting these two ingredients together seemed like a natural pairing; Israeli couscous is a bit of a blank slate when it comes to dressing up, and beets can add color to the look and flavor of a dish. And because this winter has been more gray than usual, I dressed the salad with vinaigrette for another punch of fuchsia. The dressing deepens the ruby hue, so it brightens even the dreariest winter night. Try it out before March 9!

Israeli Couscous Salad with Beets and Hazelnuts

Serves 4 to 6

You will need two tablespoons of beet juice for the vinaigrette. I recommend buying precooked beets from your local supermarket. (I’ve been able to find Love Beets, which come with juice, in most supermarkets.)

1½ cups Israeli couscous
8 ounces cooked beets, plus juice, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Beet Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons beet juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. In a medium heavy-bottom pot, bring 3 cups water up to boil. Add couscous and decrease heat to low. Cover and simmer until water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in small bowl, whisk together beet juice, vinegar, mustard and honey. Slowly drizzle in olive oil, whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Transfer still-warm couscous to large mixing bowl. Stir in beets, hazelnuts and lemon zest. Dress with vinaigrette. Crumble goat cheese over top. Season liberally with salt and pepper and serve.

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