Couscous Cakes with Feta and Sundried Tomato Salad

Don’t you just love Ted Talks? I don’t know who Ted is. Maybe he’s the guy who started it all. Maybe it’s an acronym: Teaching Eligible Dummies? Topics of Entertainment and Doom? My acronym for it would be MMFS Talks: Making Me Feel Smart Talks. I for one love feeling like I’m stuffing important knowledge into my brain while sitting in my underwear in my family room. Who’s with me?

Ever since watching this Ted Talk by cookbook author/New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, I’ve become convinced of the need to cut back on our family’s meat intake. There are so many reasons for this–(watch the Ted Talk; Bittman put it much more intelligently than I ever could)–perhaps the focus of another blog post another day, but suffice it to say that since the decision to become more or less a “weekday vegetarian,” I’m always looking for solid vegetarian recipes for dinners. Or maybe you’ve noticed, since I have only posted one actual meat dish so far on this blog.

I’ve been making this couscous cakes and salad recipe for awhile now, and it does not disappoint. Hearty and healthy at the same time–my favorite kind of dinner. Actually, the only disappointing thing is that it contains no actual cake. My kids were a little bummed about that (and so was I). Not to worry, though! My birthday is in a couple of days, so I may get around to posting an actual cake recipe very soon.

Couscous Cakes with Feta and Sundried Tomato Salad
(Heavily adapted from


For the dressing:

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. sour cream
1 tsp. finely chopped mint
4 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper

For the couscous cakes:

1 1/2 c. dry couscous
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley
4 eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
Olive oil

For the salad:

8 oz. fresh spinach
1/2 c. feta cheese
1/2 c. sundried tomatoes


Prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, sour cream, and mint. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Prepare the couscous cakes (can be done several hours in advance): Prepare couscous according to package directions. (If there are no directions, you can always remember that couscous has a 1:1 ratio with water. In a microwave-safe dish, pour 1 1/2 c. water over 1 1/2 c. couscous with a sprinkle of salt and microwave for 3 1/2 minutes. Fluff with a fork.) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mash garbanzo beans until pasty. Add 1 1/2 tsp. salt, minced garlic, dried parsley, eggs, and lemon zest. Mix in cooled couscous until thoroughly combined.

Press the couscous mixture into a 1/4 c. measuring cup, smooth the top, and invert the measuring cup to release the cake onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining couscous mixture. (At this point, the cakes can be covered and refrigerated for later cooking.)

Heat 1 1/2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 5 couscous cakes to the skillet and flatten with a spatula until they’re about 3/4 inch thick. Cook, flipping once, until crisp and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate and cover. Repeat the process until all cakes are cooked.

Assemble the salad: On individual plates, distribute spinach, feta, and sun dried tomatoes. Top each salad with couscous cakes, and serve with dressing.

Makes approximately 15 couscous cakes, or 5 servings.

Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad

When I made this familiar dish the other night, I said to my husband, “This is my favorite vegetable experience.” Spoken like a real food nerd, I know. But seriously, as vegetable experiences go, this is a smokin’ good one. Broccoli, zucchini, and carrots at their roasted crispy-sweetest, layered in fluffy couscous with perfectly al dente feta, held together with the undergirding tartness of a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Holy couscous salad, Batman!

While you may assume this is a side dish–and it very well serve as one–it always serves our family as an entree. (Well, an entree that leaves a little room for dessert.) As a vegetarian meal, it’s got it all: carbs, protein, and veggies.

Here’s the lowdown on how to make it:

Roasted Vegetable Couscous Salad
(Recipe is original except for dressing from


For the salad:

2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 in. x 2 in. matchsticks
2 carrots, cut into 1/2 in. x 2 in. matchsticks
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 c. dry couscous

For the dressing:
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss zucchini, carrots, and broccoli with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast 25-30 minutes, turning vegetables every 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, make the couscous according to package directions.

Also make the dressing: mix all ingredients except the oil together. Add oil to mixture and mix well with a whisk/fork.

Toss couscous with roasted vegetables, feta, and dressing.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish.

Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce (with a side of Phineas and Ferb)

If you’re a parent of young children, you are familiar with that incredible window of productivity known as your child’s nap time. Since my 2-year-old blessedly still takes an afternoon nap, I try to get as much done as possible during those couple of quiet(er) hours of the day. My 6 and 4-year-olds are still very much awake at that time, but Legos are a beautiful thing for keeping them entertained…well, Legos and pummeling each other to the ground in what they call “Wrestle Fight.” (Did I mention they’re girls?…haha, just kidding.)

When my 2-year-old was younger and wouldn’t sit through a TV show while I made dinner, I relied on nap time to get prep work done on dinner, easing the pain of her standing at the baby gate screaming her guts out while I chopped vegetables…really not fun for either of us. Since then, the routine of doing dinner prep in the afternoons has become second nature, especially if I want to make a meal that takes longer than a Phineas and Ferb episode. When I meal plan, I typically gravitate toward recipes that I can chop/grate/mix/layer ahead of time.

This is one such recipe. You can mash the chickpeas, chop and process the onions, parsley, and garlic, mix it all up with some egg, spices, and bread crumbs, and mold the result into patties in maybe 20 minutes:

Finished patties before cooking

Stash in the fridge until dinner time and it’s ready to bake. Same goes for the tzatziki…without the baking, obviously. This leaves your 24 minutes of Phineas and Ferb for things like checking Facebook and enjoying a glass of wine.

Baked Falafel and Tzatziki Sauce
(Adapted from


3/4 c. Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber–peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 tsp. dried dill weed
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

1 15-oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
1 small onion, chopped
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1 tsp. salt
1 dash pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4-1 c. dry bread crumbs

In a small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt, cucumber, dill weed, lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, mash chickpeas until thick and pasty. In a blender, process onion, parsley and garlic until smooth. Stir into mashed chickpeas.

In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed. Form balls and then flatten into patties. (I got 13 smallish patties.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with high-quality vegetable oil cooking spray, then place falafel on foil and spray them as well. Bake for 10 minutes, then flip and spray falafel again. Bake another 10 minutes. Finally, broil 1.5-2 minutes on each side.

Serve with tzatziki sauce (and other fixin’s as desired, such as pita, tomato, spinach, etc.)