Couscous salad with dates, oranges, zaatar and chick peas

August 21, 2010  •  Category:

Daily routine when I want to get the car and go out in Beirut. First, if my daughter is with me, I ask her to kindly swivel the outside  mirrors inwards in order to give me one and a half inch extra space on each side of the car. Then I pull the car out of the garage very slowly  (an inch at a time) and make sure Ali, the valet parking attendant (there is a clothing  store in the building)  knows I am pulling out; he then stops incoming traffic (except scooters, who go anywhere in any direction they please); using his right hand fingers that he swats continuously, he makes sure I can actually get the car out without hitting the vehicles  parked on both sides of the street, the concrete walls, any drivers that ignored his signals or any pedestrians… (the width of  the street is barely enough for my Honda and a spare  inch).

After about ten intense minutes of wheel turning, to the left, right and backwards, my neck veins about to erupt and  my heart beating at160  beats a minute,  Ali nods calmly (while  the six to eight cars that he stopped  honk in tow), and tells me ” You are done, lady, now go, and Allah be with you (allah ma’ek)”.

Dates are a much beloved fruit in the middle-east, especially during Ramadan; an old friend of my dad’s is visiting from Baghdad and brought a box of these, as sweet as can be, with a flesh so soft it melts in your mouth. This couscous salad is composed of these dates, some orange segments, chick peas and for a little kick some fresh zaatar, yet another variety of oregano grown in Lebanon and called zaatar akhdar or green zaatar.

This zaatar is pungent and is used in salads usually (although I tried it in a pesto); it can be substituted for any green with a peppery taste, such as dandelion or radish greens or baby arugula.

The dressing for this salad is simply fresh orange juice, olive oil and a dash of curry powder.


  • 1/2 package of couscous or 250 g
  • a cube of vegetable bouillon (optional, or water)
  • a cup of chopped green onions
  • a cup of fresh zaatar or a handful of radish greens or dandelion or baby arugula
  • 4 large oranges
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 1 can of chick peas (garbanzo), rinsed, drained and boil simmer a bit in fresh water, then peeled if possible
  • 1 cup (or more) of dates, pitted and chopped coarsely
  • salt, pepper, to taste, and a dash of curry powder



  1. Cook the couscous according to the directions on the package, using the vegetable bouillon instead of water if desired.
  2. Make the dressing: juice the oranges, leaving two for segments; add double the volume of olive oil and some salt, pepper and curry to taste.
  3. When the couscous is ready, add the peeled chick peas, the dates, green onions, orange segments cut in half  and zaatar. Mix and add the dressing, mixing it beforehand to make sure it is well emulsified. Serve.

NOTE: This salad is also delicious with the addition of grated carrots and raisins.


23 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. elra says:

    Love couscous, so versatile and delicious.

  2. Priya says:

    Great looking salad…yummm..

  3. Doc says:

    You continue to amaze!! Fantastic, I love serving on the bottom of the artichoke. I will “steal” that one from you, too!!! Great minds post alike; just posted couscous on the video series and when we taped the TV pilot yesterday we had a Sage brown butter dish.
    Cheers-that weather sounds like here in Fla; definitely need a Rx for white wine to cool off:-)

  4. Chef Dennis says:

    wow….all that to get your car out….I would be sweating up a storm!!
    your cous cous looks delicious, I do have to start serving more of it this year at school1
    thanks so much for a wonderful recipe!

  5. deana says:

    I just saw some great dates today… perfect for your cous cous. Your car story made me smile having just driven on the ‘wrong side’ on teeny tiny streets… very much a work out on my blood pressure!

  6. Christie @ Fresh says:

    I like this combination of flavors. Dates and oranges are such great complements.

  7. Bria @ WestofPersia says:

    So creative! You’re right, those dates are amazing. The best of them have a caramel like flavor.

  8. Mo says:

    Well, this post doesn’t make me nervous about driving at all. 😉

    A beautiful dish, though! I’ve never heard of zaatar akhdar – only the spice mix. Thank you for enlightening me; I hope to one day try it! 🙂

  9. Isabelle says:

    After all this sportive driving…I am sure you were ready for this delicious couscous salad ! I would be at any time 🙂 Thanks for your inspiring blog, always.

  10. Angie's Recipes says:

    What a delicious and healthy couscous salad!

  11. pierre says:

    parfait avec la chaleur qui fait ici !!! Pierre

  12. TastyTrix says:

    I don’t think I would ever have the nerve to drive in Beirut! And I can’t keep up with your prolific posting (though I try). So many dishes … so little time.

  13. Sushma Mallya says:

    Beautiful & delicious salad..

  14. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) says:

    I have been in India, never have driven myself, and that was hairy enough. Drove in Crete but tried to stay in the country for the most part. Love reading your recipes. Now I just have to make them.

  15. The Gypsy Chef says:

    Yup, I feel for you. I’ve just been doing the same to my mirrors in Sicily. In those narrow streets even a Fiat Cinquecento seems like a Sedan de Ville. Your a brave woman Joumana. But your couscous, with those luscious dates sounds wonderful. Thanks for posting.

  16. Faith says:

    This is such a great use for dates! This salad sounds very refreshing with the orange segments, and the za’atar is such a wonderful savory addition!

  17. OysterCulture says:

    This salad sounds just spectacular, what a wonderful tasty treat.

  18. asia jo says:

    Delicious! I just made this dish and I am loving it so much! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  19. domi says:

    Un adorable petit dôme plein de charme et de goûts….

  20. Angel of the North says:

    That looks gorgeous – what’s the herb sprig on top?

    • Joumana says:

      @Angel of the North: The herb is fresh zaatar, an herb that is found and consumed in Lebanon in salads and even pickled. Can be substituted for tarragon.

  21. Mithila says:

    Hi, I made it yday and it was delicious. I plan to make it for a party crowd this Sunday. Can you please suggest a substitute for chickpeas? Thanks a bunch.

    • Joumana says:

      @Mithila: I’d use other legumes, like pinto beans or yellow split-peas or white beans; if it is legumes you don’t want, how about artichoke bottoms, sliced (they are sold frozen or canned in most Middle-Eastern grocers).

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