pack a picnic: pearl couscous salad with fresh herbs, feta, & apricot

June 1, 2015

couscous salad with fresh herbs, feta, and apricots | reading my tea leavesSummertime in the city means that I try to spend as much time as humanly possible outside of my apartment. When I finish my work day, I want to go immediately down to the park for dinner, but that means needing to have something on hand that’s easily transportable and still wholesome and nutritious. (Otherwise by this stage we’d be made of tofu bahn mi from the neighborhood Vietnamese sandwich shop.) Even better when it’s something that even the tiniest member of our family can enjoy. This month, I’m sharing three of a my favorite summertime dinner salads in a series sponsored by our neighborhood grocery store. They’re all meals that can be packed up and toted with you—good for after-work park picnics, weekend outings, and office lunches alike.
couscous salad with fresh herbs, feta, and apricots | reading my tea leaves I had a pearl couscous salad with feta and apricots at a cafe a few weeks ago and I’ve been riffing on the sweet and salty combination ever since. couscous salad with fresh herbs, feta, and apricots | reading my tea leaves This is less of a true recipe, and more of a guideline that you can tweak according to your taste. For this variation, I used lots of fresh mint and parsley in a nod to a more traditional tabbouleh. couscous salad with fresh herbs, feta, and apricots | reading my tea leaves While my couscous simmered on the stove, I started my dressing by mixing olive oil and lemon juice with chopped herbs and shallot. couscous salad with fresh herbs, feta, and apricots | reading my tea leaves Next I added crumbled feta and dried apricots—dark brown because they’ve been dried without sulfur dioxide. couscous salad with fresh herbs, feta, and apricots | reading my tea leaves Finally, I mixed in my cooked whole wheat couscous and added an extra squeeze of lemon. couscous salad with fresh herbs, feta, and apricots | reading my tea leaves Pearl Couscous Salad with Fresh Herbs, Feta, and Apricot

What you need:
1/4 cup olive oil, plus a tablespoon or so for toasting
2 cups whole wheat couscous
1-2 lemons, depending on taste
1 bunch parsley, removed from the stem and chopped
1 bunch mint, removed from the stem and chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 large handful dried apricots, chopped
1/3 pound feta, crumbled
sea salt, to taste

What to do:

1. Coat the bottom of a saucepan in olive oil and toast dried couscous over medium heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Add 2 and a half cups of water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the water has evaporated or the couscous is tender. Rinse the cooked couscous under cool water and set aside in a collander or sieve to drain.

2. In a large salad bowl combine olive oil and the juice from one lemon, and a pinch of sea salt with chopped herbs and diced shallot. Crumble feta cheese on top according to taste (I used about 1/3 pound) and add chopped apricots (I cut each apricot into approximately 6 pieces). Fold in cooked couscous.

3. Taste and season with an extra squeeze of lemon and a pinch or two of sea salt to taste.

Note: We’ve also enjoyed this salad with the addition of chopped almonds for an additional protein punch and crunch. You can also try swapping the shallot for green onions and the dried apricots for fresh.
couscous salad with fresh herbs, feta, and apricots | reading my tea leaves We made a large portion and had enough for dinner and a small lunch the next day. Faye gobbled it, too!

This summer picnic series is sponsored by Perelandra Natural Foods Center, our favorite neighborhood grocery store. Since their opening in 1976, Perelandra has been committed to supplying the Brooklyn Heights community with nutritious, sustainable, and delicious food. Perelandra prides itself on stocking 100% certified organic produce and all of their grocery products are hand-selected by their on-staff nutritionist. 

Perelandra is currently offering Brooklyn-based Reading My Tea Leaves readers a free delivery when you place your grocery order online with the code FREEDELIVERY. Visit them at to place an order.

Thanks so much for supporting the thoughtful, sustainable brands that help support original editorial content on this site.

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  • Reply carlyn greer June 1, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    YUM! I love summer salads. At the cottage when guest/family numbers increase to 15+ we make a variety of salads in huge quantities as sides for dinner, we keep them in large tupperware bowls with lids and just pull them out at dinner time. They last a few days and make dinner prep simpler and faster so there is more time to spend on the dock in the sunshine!

  • Reply Christine Amorose June 1, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Bookmarking this for my next round of mason jar salads at work. Looks delicious!

  • Reply ariana June 1, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    yum! a perfect picnic (or otherwise) meal. nailed it! also, love that your apricots were dried sans sulphur dioxide. I haven't found those around–granted, I haven't looked very hard, either.

  • Reply Rachel June 1, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    This looks delish!! I will be making this soon!


  • Reply Lianne June 1, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    What great timing – I just moved to Brooklyn Heights yesterday and spent this morning staring at unpacked boxes and an empty fridge! I'll be using this code tonight 🙂

    • Reply Erin June 1, 2015 at 5:06 pm

      Terrific! Welcome!

  • Reply We Dress Alright June 1, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    This looks like such a perfect summer lunch! I can't wait to try it. I am obsessed with anything with fresh mint so this looks awesome!

  • Reply Caitlin June 1, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    This looks delicious! I'm going to add some chopped olives and maybe use farro or wheat berries since I don't have couscous…

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply notmagazineready June 2, 2015 at 3:38 am

    This looks wonderful. I do something similar fairly regularly, subbing quinoa for the couscous and using cranberries instead of apricots. Now I am going to have to try apricots! So delicious-looking!

  • Reply Nancy Cavillones June 4, 2015 at 10:29 am

    Looks delicious! And I agree with Caitlin, would be so good with olives!

  • Reply raebird June 8, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Made this last night and it was so yummy! And ridiculously easy also. I needed that push to just throw a few good flavors together to make something special – thanks!

  • Reply Alie June 13, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    Made this a few nights ago with couscous for my husband and (gluten-free) lentils for me. It was delish! Thanks for sharing! (And yay, Perelandra. We live in Dumbo and love that place!)

  • Reply Clare June 17, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    This looks lovely, particularly because I've been looking for a good grain salad to make for an upcoming dinner party with a vegan guest! Erin, any ideas for a salty sub for the feta to make it vegan?

    • Reply Erin June 17, 2015 at 3:20 pm

      Hmmm…I am not the best at thinking up vegan recipes….seasoned tofu of some sort?

    • Reply Clare June 17, 2015 at 3:23 pm

      Haha not my area either but tofu is definitely worth a shot. Thanks!

  • Reply AppaloosaMoon June 25, 2015 at 1:27 am

    I just finished preparing this recipe, used a Turkish Sheep & Goat Feta, & am nibbling on it now while the roasted vegetables cook…it is so delicious I may just nibble it all away before dinner is served! Thank you for sharing this!

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