I firmly believe summertime should be spent on the water. Whether it is on Lake Otsego or the Atlantic Ocean, I love all types of aquatic sports, especially those involving boats. It just so happens that my father-in-law is in the boat business, an unexpected benefit to marrying my husband. He commutes to work by boat, has his Captain's License and has taught me how to drive a Boston Whaler. But, I will readily admit, not all of my boat trips are spent practicing navigation rules. While I am happy to drive, I am also happy to be the passenger. Especially when we embark on our weekly dinner cruises around Vineyard Haven Harbor.
During our Martha's Vineyard vacation we held several picnics on our boat. We have gotten pretty good at coordinating these over the years, always packing unbreakable utensils and extra sweaters. When it comes to the food, we have learned to keep it basic. Much like the philosophy of The Yachting Cookbook, boat food should be easy and delicious. We never make anything that needs to be served piping hot, or stored in a fridge until consumption. Instead, we opt for the simple and tasty route, sandwiches, salads, chips and hot dogs. Everything can be carried aboard with ease, and consumed without concern, which is why my cous-cous salad is always perfect to bring.
My husband once called this "kitchen sink" salad, due to the variety of ingredients. It is great for picnics because it can easily be made ahead of time - I make it during my daughter's naptime - and served at room temperature. The hardest part about the entire preparation is fixing the cous-cous, which is about the easiest thing in the world to do. Once the cous-cous is completely steamed I simply fluff it with a fork, stir in the ingredients, and mix in the tangy dressing.
It is a gorgeous salad to look at, and equally as delicious to eat. I love how the sweet craisins contrast with the tangy blue cheese, both of which are highlighted with the subtle flavor of vinegar and scallions. I started adding the pecans a short time ago, after tasting them in a similar salad from a nearby farmstand. They add a nice texture and nutty flavor. Last Friday I brought this salad on the boat to accompany our grilled hot dogs. It was the perfect thing to serve as we enjoyed our leisurely trip around the harbor, savoring the taste of summer.
Naptime's Cous-Cous with Blue Cheese, Craisins and Pecans
1 10 oz. box plain cous-cous
1 c. craisins (dried cranberries)
1 c. blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 c. scallions
3/4 c. pecans, roughly chopped
1/3 c. good olive oil
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1 t. lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt to taste
1. Prepare cous-cous according to package directions.
2. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Set aside.
3. Pour prepared cous-cous into a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Add craisins, blue cheese, scallions and pecans. Stir well until completely combined.
4. Add dressing and mix until salad is completely coated with dressing.
5. Add 2 pinches of salt, or more, to taste.
6. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be stored, covered with plastic, in the fridge.
Naptime Recipe Props: Like all good salads, this one is flexible. I have added dried cherries in lieu of cranberries before, as well as other ingredients like chopped apples or garlic scapes instead of scallions. I encourage you to find your own preferred flavors to make this salad your own.
Naptime Stopwatch: This salad usually takes me about 25 minutes to make, from start to finish. Preparing cous-cous only takes five minutes, the rest of the time is just spent pouring and mixing the ingredients. It is perfect to make during naptime, it keeps well until dinner. Or, the next day.
Naptime Reviews: A few times people have made this and added more vinegar since they prefer a tangier taste. I like to keep it subtle so I can prefer all the nuances of the nuts and fruits. When I have served this at a large party the bowl is always empty by the end of the night.