By the time senior year rolls around in high school, most students have figured out routines that make the school day more enjoyable. Some of my friends like coffee in the morning, while others have a prep period in the middle of the day. Personally, I can’t wait until lunch. After years of more or less sitting in the dirt on the periphery of the lunch area, I now get the privilege of sitting on the quad at lunch with my friends. To make lunch even better, I always spend a few minutes every Sunday preparing a healthy lunch for the week.
This salad, composed of Israeli couscous, roasted eggplant, chickpeas, and harissa, is my favorite out of all the packed lunches I’ve made this year. After a brief salting period to draw out excess moisture, the eggplant is roasted in a hot oven until well browned and tender, then tossed with a harissa and honey vinaigrette to counteract any remaining bitterness. The hearty salad components ensure that the meal still tastes fresh by lunch-time. Having this salad on hand makes packing my daily lunch straightforward and efficient without compromising flavor. Spend a few minutes on the weekend to get ready for the week by making this salad; you’ll appreciate that time spent every time you stop for lunch. If you’re looking for more packed lunch ideas, try my Chickpea and Quinoa salad with Feta and Mint, or my Zucchini with Orzo.
Eggplant Salad with Couscous and Harissa
1 lb. eggplant (about 1 large globe eggplant), cut into 1 inch cubes
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
1 cup Israeli couscous (or Harvest Grains blend from Trader Joe’s, which is mainly Israeli couscous)
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon harissa paste
1, 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Spread the eggplant into a single layer on a plate and sprinkle with the kosher salt, and let sit for 30 minutes to draw out excess moisture. About 15 minutes before the eggplant has finished salting, preheat the oven to 425F and grease a rimmed baking sheet with 1 teaspoon olive oil. When the eggplant is finished salting, use a paper towel to wipe off the salt grains and blot away any moisture that was released. Toss the eggplant with 1 teaspoon olive oil and ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, then place it in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast the eggplant for 30 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until golden brown and cooked through.
- While the eggplant is roasting, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil, then add the couscous and boil for 8-10 minutes, until al dente. Drain, and set aside in a large bowl. Add the chickpeas and eggplant to the bowl with the couscous.
- In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, table salt, lemon juice, honey, and harissa. Pour this mixture over the couscous mixture along with the chopped parsley, and toss to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste, and serve.
Note: This salad is excellent served warm or at room temperature.