Make Ahead

Herbed Tuna and Israeli Couscous Salad with Cumin, Coriander and Citrus

February 27, 2012
2 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

Although I am late to appreciating good, oil packed tuna, I am making up for it by having it as a weekly standby. Add a hearty squeeze of fragrant lemon, some pasta and voilà, a simple but satisfying meal that my family loves. Recently I decided to add some preserved lemon I’d made over the holidays and was wooed by how much they reminded me of olives, but oh-so-much brighter (ok, I’m late to the preserved lemon party too)! While the basics of oil packed tuna, lemon and pasta are near flawless, I decided to see what would happen if I added some earthy spice, bright herbs and citrus in the form of fresh orange and preserved lemon and was very pleased with the results. It makes for a lovely light supper or satisfying lunch. —gingerroot

Test Kitchen Notes

This tasty Isreali couscous salad is delicious and quicker than a flash to make! While the couscous is cooking, the rest of the recipe can be put together, so total time to prepare is about 20 minutes (not including cooling time). The layering of citrus flavors adds so much to the balance of the dish and the preserved lemon brightens the tuna (and entire dish) delightfully. I love spice with the best of them, however suggest cutting down the cayenne the first time you make it ...I tried the full teaspoon and it overwhelmed the dish a bit too much. As suggested, start with 1/2 teaspoon. This is one of my favorite new go-to lunch salads! —Victoria Ross

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley leaves, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seed
  • 1/2-1 teaspoons cayenne pepper (if you are not a fan of spice, start with 1/4 t or omit completely)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 juicy sweet orange
  • 1 250g (8.81 oz) can Ortiz Bonito white tuna
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • kosher salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced preserved lemon, rinsed, pulp and pith removed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  1. Rough chop your herbs and place in a bowl.
  2. Toast cumin and coriander seed in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, tossing pan as you go to prevent burning. Transfer all whole spices to a mortar and pestle. Turn off heat but return skillet to burner. Carefully add olive oil to hot skillet (beware of sputtering).
  3. Crush whole spices into a powder. Transfer hot oil to a large serving bowl, followed by crushed spices and cayenne. Set bowl aside.
  4. Heat water and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan and cover. When water is boiling, add Israeli couscous and cook for 8-10 minutes until tender and liquid is absorbed. Drain in a colander and shake to remove excess water.
  5. Open tuna and drain off most of the oil. Using a fork, add tuna to bowl with spiced oil.
  6. Cut orange in half and squeeze a quarter of the orange into tuna mixture, reserving remaining quarter.
  7. Fold couscous into bowl using a spatula. Follow with chopped herbs. Squeeze remaining quarter orange over salad and combine. Add preserved lemon and lemon juice and fold again.
  8. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary, adding remaining T of preserved lemon if desired. Cover and refrigerate to let flavors meld. Allow salad to come to room temperature and mix before serving. Enjoy. Note: Can be made one day ahead.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Juli Lundell Tarsney
    Juli Lundell Tarsney
  • Marisa
  • dymnyno
  • pamelalee
  • linenlady

Recipe by: gingerroot

My most vivid childhood memories have to do with family and food. As a kid, I had the good fortune of having a mom who always encouraged trying new things, and two grandmothers who invited me into their kitchens at a young age. I enjoy cooking for the joy it brings me - sharing food with loved ones - and as a stress release. I turn to it equally during good times and bad. Now that I have two young children, I try to be conscientious about what we cook and eat. Right about the time I joined food52, I planted my first raised bed garden and joined a CSA; between the two I try to cook as sustainably and organically as I can. Although I'm usually cooking alone, my children are my favorite kitchen companions and I love cooking with them. I hope when they are grown they will look back fondly at our time spent in the kitchen, as they teach their loved ones about food-love. Best of all, after years on the mainland for college and graduate school, I get to eat and cook and raise my children in my hometown of Honolulu, HI. When I'm not cooking, I am helping others grow their own organic food or teaching schoolchildren about art.

24 Reviews

Juli L. August 8, 2016
I am making this for at least the third time this summer since discovering the recipe - I love it! The previous times I made do without preserved lemon, just using lemon zest & extra lemon juice. Today, however, I'm trying Mark Bitman's recipe for quick "preserved" lemons, and so far the flavor seems that much more interesting; this salad always tastes even better on day 2, so I'm looking forward to how it unfolds. I've used two other small variations: I cut the cumin to 1 tsp (personal preference) and I toast the Israeli couscous before cooking it in water; it's simple just to toast it in the pan after removing the oil - then add water and cook. The couscous ends up with some lovely variation in color and texture, so I think it's worth the extra step. I absolutely love this recipe - thank you!
gingerroot August 8, 2016
You're welcome, Juli! I'm thrilled you are enjoying this recipe and love your extra step of toasting the Israeli couscous. I'll be sure to do that the next time I make this.
Marisa March 3, 2014
I don't have Israeli couscous but I'm definitely making this for lunch tomorrow with quinoa instead. Thanks!
gingerroot October 28, 2014
Thanks for your comment, Marisa. I've made it with quinoa for my husband, who has celiac disease. I hope you enjoyed it!
dymnyno July 24, 2013
Sounds delicious and perfect for lunch today.
gingerroot July 25, 2013
Thank you, dymnyno! I hope it worked out for you.
Amy G. May 18, 2013
What a great recipe, thanks! We heated leftovers, mounded on a little pile of dressed arugula, and topped the whole thing with a poached egg for easy weeknight dinner. Awesome!
gingerroot May 18, 2013
Thanks for letting me know! I'm happy you enjoyed it...mmm, I bet it was delicious with your additions.
pamelalee February 27, 2013
I made this easy salad last summer and loved it even though I used lemon zest in place of the preserved lemon. Now that the video on how-to preserve lemons was just posted on the site, I'm ready to give it a try.
gingerroot February 28, 2013
So glad to hear that, pamelalee! The preserved lemon provides a flavorful punch of citrus that I hope you'll enjoy.
Lisa C. January 25, 2013
Looks Great. I will try!
gingerroot January 29, 2013
Thanks, Lisa! I hope you enjoy it.
linenlady April 3, 2012
Great recipe! I didn't have couscous so i used orzo. Also added pine nuts!
gingerroot April 4, 2012
Thanks, linenlady! So glad you enjoyed it. Orzo is a perfect sub and pine nuts a great addition. I almost added toasted sliced almonds when I was putting the salad together.
Fairmount_market February 29, 2012
This sounds lovely! I'm inspired.
gingerroot March 4, 2012
Thank you Fairmount_market! Sorry for the belated reply...somehow I missed your comment.
Sagegreen February 27, 2012
I love your flavor profile, as usual!
gingerroot February 28, 2012
Thank you, Sagegreen! I started with the contrast of regular lemon juice with tuna and decided to incorporate a variety of different citrus notes - from the sweet orange, to the salty, bright preserved lemon, to the fresh green notes of the herbs and finally the bright but earthy whole spices. The cayenne provides a spicy punch.
arielleclementine February 27, 2012
sounds completely perfect! beautiful!
gingerroot February 28, 2012
Thank you, arielleclementine! That means a lot coming from you. : )
TiggyBee February 27, 2012
Yum!!! I'm happy to say, I was needing a recipe for my homemade lemon preserves!! : )
gingerroot February 28, 2012
Yay! I love my preserved lemons and have been putting them in everything lately. I hope you enjoy this if you give it a whirl, let me know what you think.
boulangere February 27, 2012
This looks absolutely wonderful.
gingerroot February 28, 2012
Thank you, boulangere!