What’s more fun than a healthful side dish that has a super fun mouth feel, looks like a party on a plate, and packs a little plant-based protein punch? Whenever I see Israeli pearl couscous,  the refined cousin to the traditional steel-cut semolina cousin, I grab it up. It’s a fun addition to any salad, pairs well with black lentils for a little aesthetic and who knew that it tastes as good as it looks? Couscous is not gluten-free, but you can make a gluten-free version with quinoa, millet, or cooked rice. Use your favorite combination of veggies. Just blanch as you see necessary and provide the contrasting colors. Start with some red onion, bell pepper, and preserved lemon, then take it from there. 


1 cup cooked French lentils, the cute little black ones also called De Puy. Other lentils do not keep firm the way these do so user beware! Be sure to salt your water to help the flavors come through this legume. 

2 cups Israeli pearl couscous. Follow the instructions on the packaging and be sure not to overcook. Remove from heat and drain when it is quite al dente. It will continue to cook to perfection by letting it sit.


1/2 cup fresh diced mint
1/4 cup fresh dill 
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2cup diced red bell pepper 
1/4 cup diced preserved lemon 
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes or sundried 
1/2 cup blanched and shocked frozen or fresh peas 
1/2 cup tiny cubed zucchini or squash, uncooked 


1/2 cup chunked feta cheese,  toasted pistachio 


1-3 bulbs of fresh garlic, micro-planed or finely minced
6 tbsp healthy oil like avocado oil  
1 tbsp dijon mustard
tsp honey
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp pink salt

Whisk and pour over all ingredients, combine and enjoy!  It gets better with time so make enough to enjoy tomorrow or the next day if you are lucky enough to have it last! It can be heated or served cold, or at room temperature.  Add your favorite protein (my personal fave is grilled swordfish veggie kabobs) and call it dinner! 

Chef Maja is a passionate foodie and recipe developer who cooks and creates professionally on Maui while raising her three kids and running her private events company, Lilikoi Creations.