When I’ve made a batch of Cherry Tomato Confit, I love to use it to make this Couscous Salad with Pan-seared Salmon. Tossed with baby spinach, toasted pine nuts, and crumbled goat cheese, this salad is a showstopper!
I’m fortunate to live in an area with an abundance of fresh seafood. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t pay a visit to my local fishmonger. I have my favorites, but I try to never walk into the market completely set on what I’m going to buy.
Last week, I found myself tempted by a display of beautifully-marbled organic salmon. I had actually gone to the market to get swordfish steaks to serve with the Cherry Tomato Confit I’d made over the weekend, but the salmon was calling to me.
I decided instead to use the confit to make tomato vinaigrette and use it to dress salmon and couscous salad. Perfect for summer lunch, brunch, or a light dinner.
Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette
To make the dressing for this salad, I use both the slow-roasted tomatoes and the oil from the confit recipe. Since the tomato confit takes several hours to make (most of it is hands off!), you’ll need to plan ahead for this recipe.
To complement the tomatoes’ rich flavor, I use both a splash of sherry vinegar and lemon juice for the acid. Dijon mustard, shallots, garlic from the confit, fresh dill, lemon zest, and freshly-cracked black pepper round out the dressing.
I love the complexity that sherry vinegar adds to the vinaigrette, but if you don’t have any on hand, you can substitute red wine vinegar. The amount of lemon juice you’ll need will depend on the tartness of your roasted tomatoes; some will need more of a boost than others!
Making Israeli Couscous Salad
I like to use Israeli couscous (which you’ll also see labeled as “Ptitim,” “pearl,” or “giant” couscous). Couscous pearls are more substantial than regular couscous and have a chewier texture. (Read: Couscous vs. Israeli Couscous from Escoffier Online.)
I find that that Israeli Couscous soaks up vinaigrette particularly well, and provides a nice texture contrast in this recipe with the buttery salmon.
When I make Israeli couscous, I always like to toast it first in a little bit of oil or butter and cook it in vegetable or chicken broth. This adds another layer of flavor to the finished salad. For this recipe, I use the tomato confit oil to toast the pearls, which has been infused with garlic and herbs.
After toasting, most pearl couscous only needs to simmer for 8-10 minutes. For this salad, I tend to use a bit more liquid than most package directions indicate so the pearls aren’t too starchy, draining out any extra liquid at the end.
For the best flavors and textures, toss the couscous with the vinaigrette and baby spinach while it’s still warm (not piping hot).
Cooking the Salmon
I use simple pan-seared salmon fillets for this recipe, which I flake into medium-to-large pieces when the fish is warm. I prefer seared fillets because a.) they’re quick cooking, and b.) the crust that forms on the fish from searing brings good flavor and texture to the salad.
If you prefer, you could absolutely use poached, baked, broiled, or grilled salmon fillets. If you’re cooking them with the skin on, remove the skin when flaking the fish.
Prepping the Couscous Salad Ahead
While this salad is delicious prepared fresh, you can prep components of it ahead to save some time on the day you’re going to serve it.
- Make the cherry tomato confit up to 5 days beforehand. Refrigerate, tightly-covered, and bring the confit and oil back to room temperature before preparing the vinaigrette.
- Make the vinaigrette up to 3 days beforehand and refrigerate in a jar. If the vinaigrette separates, shake it before assembling the salad.
- Toast the pine nuts 3-5 days in advance, cool completely, and store them in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Sear the salmon fillets the day before. Cool, wrap well, and refrigerate. Gently re-warm before flaking the fish and assembling the salad.
It’s best to toss the dressed couscous with the baby spinach close to when you’re going to serve. If you assemble the salad too far ahead, the spinach will wilt down too much and the texture won’t be as desirable.
More Pasta Salad Recipes To Try:
- Mediterranean Pearled Couscous Salad
- Greek-Inspired Orzo Salad with Feta
- Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad with Artichoke Hearts
Couscous Salad with Salmon
For the Vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup cherry tomato confit , drained of oil
- 2 garlic cloves from the tomato confit
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 1 teaspoon finely-grated lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (plus additional if needed, depending on how tart your tomatoes are – add to taste)
- 1/2 cup olive oil from the cherry tomato confit
- kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
For the Salmon
For the Couscous
- 2 teaspoons olive oil from cherry tomato confit
- 1-1/4 cups Israeli couscous ("pearl" couscous)
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1-1/2 cups lightly-packed baby spinach leaves , roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped shallots
To Assemble and Serve the Salad
- 1/2 cup cherry tomato confit , drained of oil
- 2 ounces toasted pine nuts
- 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
- fresh dill and parsley , to garnish
Make the Vinaigrette
- In the bowl of a mini food processor, blend together the drained tomatoes, garlic, Dijon, dill, shallots, lemon zest, sherry vinegar, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and black pepper. With the mixer running, slowly drizzle in the confit oil.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice, if needed. Set aside.
Make the Couscous
- Heat confit oil in a saucepan over medium heat and toast couscous, stirring frequently, until light golden brown and fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Add chicken or vegetable broth and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until couscous is al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain any additional liquid and place couscous in a large bowl.
- Add 1/2 cup of the prepared vinaigrette to the couscous and toss to combine. Let the mixture cool for about 5 minutes. Stir in the shallots, baby spinach leaves, chopped fresh herbs, and toasted pine nuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Gently toss with flaked salmon.
- Taste the salad. If if needs additional brightness, add a little more fresh lemon juice, to taste.
Assemble and Serve
- Place the couscous on a platter. Sprinkle with goat cheese, a few sprigs of fresh herbs for garnish, and a few spoonfuls of drained cherry tomato confit. Drizzle with additional vinaigrette and serve.