RECIPE: Spinach Couscous Salad with Chicken and Cranberries

Posted: Updated:
(Source: Mary Younkin) (Source: Mary Younkin)

By Mary Younkin, "The Weekday Lunches & Breakfast Cookbook"

Nutty pasta, crisp spinach, crunchy almonds, and sweet cranberries are tossed together in this sweet and tangy salad. While the salad is absolutely delicious when it is first made and served warm, it is even better after a rest in the refrigerator, making it perfect for lunches throughout the week. I serve this salad cold, warm, and at room temperature.

1  Tbsp. (15 ml) olive  oil, divided
2/3 cup (116 g) Israeli couscous
1  cup (237 ml) water

1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
3 Tbsp. (45 ml) white balsamic or champagne vinegar
1 Tbsp. (15 ml) honey  
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, about 1 lb. (454  g)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
8 cups (360 g) baby spinach, roughly chopped bite-size
1/2 cup (60 g) dried cranberries
1/2 cup (46 g) sliced almonds 

In a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat, warm 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add the couscous and cook stirring frequently until lightly browned and fragrant, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the water and cover the pan with a lid. Reduce the heat and simmer until the water is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

While the couscous is simmering, make the dressing. In a small jar or bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper, and set aside.

Heat a nonstick grill pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Slice the chicken breasts in half lengthwise to make 4 thin fillets. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle the remaining oil into the pan and swirl to coat.

Add the chicken to the pan and cook without touching for 2 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and place on a cutting board. Chop the chicken into bite-size 3/4-inch (2-cm) pieces.

Place the spinach in a large mixing bowl. Add the cooked couscous, chicken, cranberries, and almonds. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well to coat.

Cook's notes: While Israeli couscous is my preference, any miniature pasta can be substituted for the couscous in this recipe. Simply cook it per the package directions, drain well, and add to the salad.

This recipe works well with pan-fried chicken, as written above, as well as with grilled or store-bought rotisserie chicken. 

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