Test Kitchen recipe: Summer salad with watermelon, feta and couscous

Here’s a recipe that pairs sweet watermelon with tangy, salty feta cheese and tiny pasta. It’s a great salad to serve with grilled fish or chicken. For a potluck or outdoor barbecue, it’s a nice salad to serve in place of the usual pasta or potato salad.

If you’re not familiar with Israeli couscous, it’s a lot like regular couscous only bigger. Israeli couscous is often labeled “pearl’ size, and once cooked, it ends up being about the size of tiny beads.

Israeli couscous takes about twice as long (10 to 12 minutes) to cook compared to the regular grain-like couscous. Look for it near the regular couscous or in the ethnic foods aisle. You can find it in plain or tricolor varieties.

This refreshing blend of sweet and salty will hold for an hour or two in the refrigerator, but is best served immediately. Substitute spinach or arugula for watercress if you wish.

Israeli Couscous with Watermelon, Watercress and Feta

Serves: 8 (as a side dish)

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 30 minutes

2 tsp. kosher salt, divided

1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous

1 (about 4 lbs.) seedless watermelon

8-lz. block feta cheese

Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tbsp. honey

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 cups (packed) watercress or arugula

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of water and 1 teaspoon salt to boil over medium-high heat. Stir in the couscous and reduce the heat so mixture simmers. Cover the pan and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the couscous is tender. Drain and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove and discard the watermelon rind. Cut the flesh into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside. Cut the block of feta in half horizontally so you have two blocks. Cut each block into 1/2-inch cubes. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, olive oil, honey, 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Add the cooled couscous, watermelon, feta and watercress. Gently toss ingredients to evenly combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Adapted from “Weeknights with Giada: Quick and Simple Recipes to Revamp Dinner” by Giada De Laurentiis (Clarkson Potter, $35).

Tested by Susan M. Selasky in the Free Press Test Kitchen.

268 calories (43 percent from fat), 13 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 33 g carbohydrates, 7 g protein, 615 mg sodium, 25 mg cholesterol, 2 g fiber.