Many thanks to my sister-in-law, Jane, for this idea. Jane loves caprese salad, and I love going to her house to eat it! Jane grows her own basil, and she always waits until the last minute to go outside and pick the fresh basil for her caprese salad which, I am sure, is why hers is always so good. Recently, my fabulous sister-in-law told me that she had made israeli couscous and added the elements of her caprese salad to it, and that it had been delicious. So, what could I do but copy her idea? I love the fresh flavors in this salad. For the dressing, I used just a splash of balsamic vinegar because I did not want all of the beautiful colors of the basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella to fade to brown. Also, the basil and tomatoes added enough sweetness to the dish without the added sweetness of balsamic vinegar. I like to make my dressing first, so that the garlic gets a chance to steep into the vinegar for a little while before the salad gets dressed.
For the dressing:
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1 t balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup of olive oil (Use a little more if you like your salad less tart)
1 large clove of garlic, chopped finely
salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1/4 t of salt and 10 grinds black pepper)
For the couscous:
2 cups israeli couscous*, prepared according to package directions
2 medium tomatoes, chopped (don't use the core)
2 T basil, cut into chiffonade
1 8 oz container perlini mozzarella**, drained
salt and pepper to taste (I used about 3/4 t salt and 15 grinds black pepper)
Make the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a jar, screw on the top, and shake like crazy! Taste for seasoning. Set aside. You may not need all of this dressing.
Drain the cooked couscous and place it in a bowl in the fridge to chill while you prep the rest of the ingredients. I was in a hurry, so I actually had to put my caprese couscous in an ice water bath*** to chill before I could take it to the dinner party. After you chop your tomatoes, place them onto a couple of paper towels to drain the juices, and sprinkle with about 1/4 t salt. While those tomato juices are draining, chiffonade your basil. Mix all of your ingredients together except the dressing. Add the dressing slowly, using just enough to coat the couscous. You will probably have about 1/4 cup of dressing left to use on a salad later. Enjoy!
*Israeli couscous is much larger in size than traditional couscous. You can definitely find it in middle-eastern markets (in Memphis, on Park near Highland), and in Memphis you can also get it at the Fresh Market. It is much heartier than traditional couscous and can stand up to the coarsely chopped ingredients in this salad. I think it would also be great added to a hearty soup in the winter time. I would not substitute traditional couscous in this recipe, but you could use a small pasta shape, like orzo, if you cannot find israeli couscous.
** Somehow, my sad excuse for a neighborhood grocery store managed to have these little pearl-sized balls of mozzarella packed in water in the fancy cheese section. They are great, because you don't even have to cut them up, but you can always use any good quality mozzarella that you cut into small pieces yourself. I would definitely advise getting mozzarella packed in water, as it tends to taste better than the usually rubbery stuff that comes vaccum-packed.
***If you need to chill a dish faster than normal, an ice water bath is the way to go. Just get yourself a bowl that is at least the same size or a little larger than the bowl of stuff you want to chill, and fill about halfway with equal parts ice and water. Put your bowl of stuff into the ice water bath and let it sit, stirring every once in a while if you want to speed up the process even more. Works like a charm! This salad chilled in about five minutes instead of the hour it would have taken in the fridge.