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Retro Recipe: Couscous Salad with Zucchini, Lemon and Ricotta Salata

July 18, 2011


This past weekend, when I was looking for something to serve with striped bass in a tomato, saffron and grappa sauce, I made a new couscous that Merrill and I had picked up at Union Market in Brooklyn. Les Moulins Mahjoub is hand-rolled and sun-dried in Tunisia and comes in a spiffy jar. When we bought it, I remember thinking that we’d been seduced by packaging. But the couscous inside did not disappoint – in fact, it made me realize I’d never had really good couscous before. The individual beads are irregularly shaped and larger than most packaged couscous, and they remain firm after steaming. The best part is the couscous’s flavor, which is nutty, even a little flinty. The obvious comparison is to expensive dried pasta, which I like, but which I can’t always justify buying when I measure it against a great, reasonably-priced brand like de Cecco. Having cooked with Les Moulins Mahjoub, I can’t justify buying the cheap stuff. A 1.1-pound jar is $9 at Cube Marketplace.

Couscous Salad with Zucchini, Lemon and Ricotta Salata

  • 2 cups cooked couscous
  • 1 cup minced zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/ 4 cup olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1/ 3 cup crumbled ricotta salata

In a mixing bowl, fold together the couscous, zucchini, shallot, basil and lemon zest. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and stir to mix. Season with salt and pepper. Let sit for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the ricotta salata.

Serves 4.

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Amanda Hesser

Written by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.


phyllis March 8, 2017
I serve at room temp. Delicious.
Jayme S. March 8, 2017
Could this be served cooled?
Amanda H. March 8, 2017
Yes, absolutely!
AmyW July 30, 2011
I made this for my 30th high school reunion last weekend (a giant picnic) and it was a huge hit. Several folks wanted the recipe, so I sent them all to Food52! Knew I wouldn't be able to find Israeli couscous back home in upstate NY, so brought it with me on the plane, which prompted a bag search by TSA. :-) Also, no luck finding ricotta salata, so used a hard, mild cheddar, which worked beautifully. Am about to make it tonight for dinner, with the right cheese this time. This recipe is a keeper.
Amanda H. July 30, 2011
Like that you persevered on your odyssey to make this recipe! And glad you've converted your high school classmates. Thanks!
AmyW July 20, 2011
Do you think this would be good using Israeli couscous? I prefer that to regular. Am thinking about making this as a dish to pass.
phyllis July 20, 2011
For sure!!! Israeli couscous has the texture you want.
Amanda H. July 20, 2011
Completely agree!
Adam E. July 20, 2011
Made a version of this tailored to the grad student budget last night, with ordinary couscous and feta subbed in for the ricotta. It was still really delicious!
Amanda H. July 20, 2011
Glad you liked it.
Carol S. July 19, 2011
I made this for dinner this evening and it was so delicious. Loved the mix of flavors and textures. I'll make this recipe and variations of it all summer long.
Amanda H. July 20, 2011
Yulia July 19, 2011
Drool. If made as a vegan dish, what do you think would be a good substitute for the ricotta salata? And I don't mean some sort of non-dairy cheese, either!
Amanda H. July 20, 2011
Maybe capers?
aargersi July 19, 2011
Never one to say no to luxury food items - couscous order has been placed, and a little honey too :-)
Sagegreen July 19, 2011
Good point!
phyllis July 18, 2011
I have cooked this couscous and it really is delicious. It's pricey but if you can, try it. I recently made a similar recipe to Amanda's for a large gathering. It was gone in minutes.
Sagegreen July 18, 2011
This is a great recipe, but that is expensive couscous! It almost looks like our silver queen corn. I might try this with the zuc instead. I will use our way out in the boonies affordable couscous in another version, too.
Amanda H. July 18, 2011
Yes, it is expensive, but if you ever want to splurge, it really is interesting and delicious. Everyone I've served it to has noted how unusual and memorable it is.
Sagegreen July 31, 2011
I think these couscous pearls are like perfect little baby dumplings, except they are so easy to make! Yes, worth the price.
Bob Y. July 18, 2011
Is this cous-cous cooked like ordinary cous-cous - soaked in boiled water or broth and left to sit for 7 minutes?
Amanda H. July 18, 2011
ctgal July 18, 2011
$9 dollars??? For couscous? It looks like Israeli couscous. Was it, or chewier? I have made a version of your dish, but the ricotta salata is a good idea: salty (cheese) and sweet (zuccchini).
Thanks! There's some in the refrigerator from last week's haul at our CSA. Used the fennel from that tonight in a Portuguese clam and sweet sausage dish. Yum!
Amanda H. July 18, 2011
Totally hear you on the price. I buy it as gifts for people. But it really is very different than any couscous I've ever had and is delicious.
cellings July 18, 2011
What do think about feta in this?
Amanda H. July 18, 2011
Would work nicely. I might use a little less of it.
Emiko July 18, 2011
Delicious. I just brought back 2 rounds of ricotta salata from Puglia and I have a bag of zucchini from a neighbour's garden. This sounds perfect!
Amanda H. July 18, 2011
We were spying on you.