copycat Trader Joe’s couscous + arugula salad with pimento dressing.

As much as I absolutely love cooking and cannot fathom a lifestyle in which I wasn’t enchanted and enthralled with recipes, ingredients and kitchen tools, even I get too tired to cook from time to time. Sometimes I just crave a prepared item, whether it’s takeout from a restaurant or a prepped meal from a grocery store. When I’m in those moods, one of my favorite places to stop off at is Trader Joe’s — I love their prepared salads, they have something for everyone! My most favorite is their lemon chicken and couscous salad with arugula and a to-die-for roasted red pepper dressing. I always add extra arugula to it; as the portion they provide is a bit paltry, and you know how I love my salad greens. I figured I had to be able to make this on my own, and a quick search on TJ’s website yielded the ingredients of the salad.

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I played around with what I had, and voila! A salad that is delicious cold or warm (the couscous, that is), and it keeps so well in the fridge for lunches during the week! Just pack the arugula separate from the couscous mixture and the dressing. Alternatively, you can do what I do, a little riff off of mason jar salads: dressing on the bottom (about 2 tablespoons), a cup of the couscous salad, and a generous handful of arugula on top. Remove arugula to a plate when it’s time to eat, shake to mix up the dressing and couscous, pour over the greens and dig in!

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You guys are going to LOVE this dressing — it’s primarily made up of roasted red peppers and they give such amazing flavor and a vibrant orangey red color. You could even serve up just the couscous and dressing for a great party salad; it’ll hold up so well. You can also serve with some pan seared or grilled chicken on the side a la the original, but I kept it vegan. Don’t skip the mint; the freshness is not to be missed! Enjoy!

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couscous + arugula salad with pimento dressing.
inspired by Trader Joe’s; dressing recipe courtesy of Inside Karen’s Kitchen

12 ounces baby arugula
2 cups cooked Israeli couscous
2 cups cooked quinoa (any color)
1 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup dried cherries, currants or cranberries
1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/4 cup mint, minced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/8 teaspoon dried turmeric
splash of cider vinegar (about a teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon olive oil

roasted red pepper dressing:
1/4 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon agave
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1/4 teaspoon each sea salt and black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

directions
Cook the Israeli couscous according to package directions. Fluff, and set aside in a large bowl to cool. Cook the quinoa according to package directions, fluff, and add to the bowl with the couscous. Stir occasionally, allowing them to cool. Set aside.

Make the dressing: Add the roasted red peppers, rice vinegar, lemon juice, zest, water, agave, garlic, salt, pepper and oil and blend in a high speed blender for 60-90 seconds until the mix is smooth. Pour into an airtight container and set aside.

Once the couscous and quinoa are just slightly warm or at room temperature, add in the red bell pepper, carrots, dried cherries, mint, parsley, cider vinegar, turmeric, smoked paprika and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil. Toss well to combine.

To serve: Add dressing to the couscous salad and mix well (I typically add 2 tablespoons to each 1 cup serving). Serve alongside or over baby arugula.

Serves 6 (one cup of couscous salad + one handful of baby arugula).

*Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

 

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