Discover the art of crafting the perfect pasta salad for your summer gatherings! Explore a delectable Israeli Couscous Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes recipe sent to us by our friend, Caeli-Rose, from @happierinthekitchen. Learn expert tips on ingredient selection, texture balance, and flavor fusion to create an irresistible salad that shines at any outdoor event. Elevate your culinary skills with Caeli-Rose’s guidance and master the art of salad-making for a memorable and flavorful feast.

Ladies and gentlemen, summer is here, and with it comes outdoor activities, live music, barbecues, and family reunions. These events often involve lots of food, making it essential to have simple dishes in your back pocket. In my opinion, a salad is a perfect choice as it is easy to make, versatile for any occasion, and complements a wide array of dishes.

I tend to favor a pasta salad, as the options are limitless, and let’s be honest – who doesn’t love carbs? Take my Israeli Couscous Salad with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, for example.  You’ve got the chewy pasta that absorbs all of the flavors of the homemade lemon balsamic dressing, the crunchy cucumber and red onion, and what puts it over the top are the sweet, slow-roasted Cloud 9® Bite-Sized Tomatoes. Each ingredient brings a flavor profile to the salad, and the lemon balsamic dressing ties it together.

I chose to slow roast the Cloud 9® Bite-Sized Fruity Tomatoes to bring out the deep, sweet, smoky flavors. Like sun-dried tomatoes at the grocery store, these slow-roasted tomatoes are soft, chewy, and flavorful. When I slow-roasted them, I was cognizant of the process I used as I didn’t want them to burst or become too wet and make the salad mushy. So, to avoid this, I cut each tomato in half and placed it side up on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. I didn’t use oil to keep them as dry as possible (which is why the non-stick parchment paper is so important!). I used a small amount of salt and pepper to help bring out the natural fruity flavors but kept it minimal to let the tomatoes shine through. As for cooking, it’s all about keeping an eye on the tomatoes rather than temperature and time. I kept the oven at a balmy 375 degrees and checked on them frequently until the bottoms were browned, and the centers looked dried out, which was about one hour. The result was perfectly dried, sweet, smoky tomatoes that added flavor to each bite.

If you want to build your pasta salad, I encourage you to get creative! First, choose a base pasta, as that is what’s going to carry the flavor. After that is established, select a protein that will help to complete the salad to be served as a full meal. This can be meat, beans, or even tofu. From here, you want to focus on textures by adding the crunch of cucumber or soft mozzarella cheese.

A good tip when choosing ingredients is to focus on what the salad already has versus what the salad needs. To explain, if you already have well-seasoned, spicy steak bites, stray away from the sharp edge of red onion or choose something milder, like tiny balls of mozzarella. That said, if you only have plain pasta and chickpeas, this may be an opportunity to add something with more “zip,” like capers, goat cheese, or green olives! Next, add texture ingredients until you have enough to make each bite exciting and unique. Second to last, pick a complimentary ingredient that brings everything together. I’d choose something mild, like a diced avocado. And finally, a dressing that ties it all together! I used balsamic vinegar, garlic, and lemon juice for this couscous salad.

A general rule of thumb about salads is to make them a day in advance, if time permits, to allow the flavors to mingle. If the ingredients don’t get too soggy, you shouldn’t have an issue putting the dressing on the day before serving. I would, however, save the delicate ingredients right before serving, like avocado. In addition, when it comes to pasta salad, be sure not to over or undercook the pasta in question. There should be a balance of flavors and textures in whichever salad you make. Ultimately, when you combine your favorite ingredients, your crowd will surely be wowed by just about any combination you create. Happy tossing!

~ Caeli-Rose