Couscous salad with apples and feta.

Earlier this summer, on our trip to Italy, we enjoyed the delightful custom of having light nibbles with our Negroni and Aperol Spritz cocktails. It’s the best thing: You order a drink in late afternoon at any little bar, and you get a snack. Sometimes, it’s just a bowl of potato chips, but other times it’s an array of beautiful bites: little wedges of herbed polenta, squares of focaccia topped with prosciutto, maybe a little vegetable salad.

In Lucca, a town in Tuscany that has stolen my heart, we made a return trip to the Stella Polare on the Piazza Napoleone. We first loved the Stella Polare on a previous trip—it’s one of those spots ubiquitous in Italy that’s a coffee bar in the morning and marvelously, magically morphs over the course of the day into a cocktail/wine bar in the late afternoon and evening. You can stop into the Stella Polare (North Star) at any moment during your day and have something wonderful to drink or order from the straightforward food menu. (Actually, it’s not called the Stella Polare anymore … it seems to have changed names sometime this year … but it’s always the Stella Polare to me.)

Anyhoo, the Stella Polare rocks the appetizer scene. And it was here that we noshed on little cups of this delightful couscous salad. It was easy to create a recipe for it when we got home. I love couscous as a base for any kind of salad, and these are equally good as side dishes for grilled chicken or fish as they are stand-alones for lunch.

Give this recipe a try and imagine yourself at the Stella Polare (or wherever your cocktail happy place is), drink in hand.

couscous salad with apples, feta and olives recipe

serves 4 (8 as an appetizer)

3/4 cup couscous
1 cup water or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil
1 crisp-sweet local apple, diced
2 oz. Feta cheese, diced
1/4 cup pitted black cured olives, chopped
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring water or broth to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in couscous; cover, remove from heat and let couscous steam for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and stir in butter or olive oil; re-cover and let sit another 10 minutes. Fluff again and turn out into a serving bowl; let cool. Gently fold in diced apple, Feta and olives. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Right before serving, fold in sliced almonds. Serve at room temperature.

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