If we're going on weather alone, I think October is my favorite month, but cooking wise, September definitely has it beat. The stifling heat is starting to disappear, which means I start turning my mind towards food and cooking with a little more heft, which I love, BUT the produce is still amazing. Tomatoes and corn might be at their peak in the first couple weeks of September, and the farmers markets are overloaded with them. It's the most wonderful time of the year. (I say this about a lot of times of the year, if we are being really honest. Most times of the year. But I mean it the most in the fall.)
Before I was cooking for clients, despite cooking for myself ALL THE TIME, I did not cook and eat a ton of vegetables. If I was making fried chicken for dinner, I ate fried chicken for dinner. Vegetables took up too much room. This is not a great philosophy for a long and happy life. And I actually really like vegetables. I am not veggie-averse at all. Brussels sprouts are up there on the list of things I will order off a menu anytime I see them, and I have a recipe for them that I adore. But when I have decided I want to cook something for dinner, (fried chicken/pasta/octopus/steak) that something is typically my focus, and everything else falls to the wayside. Now that I cook for clients, I need to think a lot more about vegetables, and it is the hardest part of my menu planning. Again, not because they are not delicious, but mostly because I feel like I need to change it up all the time, and my mind just gets stuck.
This salad is kind of perfect both because it is interesting and vegetable heavy, and because it bridges the gap between summer and fall, so is pretty great for this time of year.
Pearl couscous is one of my favorite "fillers" for a vegetable salad, I love the texture and heft, though I wish it was as good for me as all the grains I could be using instead. You could absolutely use farro here instead, and it would be very delicious.
This salad is substantial enough for lunch, and would be great to make at the beginning of the week and pack for a couple days. It would also be a great side for the end of season barbecues or a delightful fall picnic.
Pearl Couscous Salad with Corn and Sweet Potato (serves 8)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced in 1/2 inch pieces
2 ears of corn, cut from the cob
2/3 plus 1/4 cups olive oil, divided
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup pearl couscous
2 large shallots, one minced, one sliced
1 cup crumbled feta
One handful dill, chopped (adjust amount to your liking.)
2 cloves garlic, smashed into a paste with a pinch of coarse salt
juice of 2 lemons
Preheat oven to 400. Toss sweet potato and corn separately with 2 tbl of olive oil each, on sheet pans with a pinch of salt and pepper, and roast until cooked through and starting to brown, 20-30 minutes, depending on size. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
While the vegetables are roasting, heat a splash of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat and sauté minced shallot until starting to soften. Add couscous and stir until couscous is coated in oil and shallot and starting to brown. Add 1 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Allow couscous to cook through, 5-6 minutes, removing cover about half way through.
While couscous is cooking, add sliced shallot to large bowl. When couscous is cooked, toss with shallot while still warm. Add roasted vegetables, feta and dill to the couscous.
Combine lemon juice, 2/3 cups olive oil, mashed garlic and additional salt and pepper to taste to make a lemony dressing. Toss with couscous and let the salad cool to room temperature before serving. Can be made a day ahead and served cold!