This lemony couscous salad is a great way to use the spinach growing in your garden this summer. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Spinach — dark green and rich in iron — thrives abundantly in the slightly cooler weather we’ve enjoyed lately, and it’s perfect for the green part of this seasonally favorite salad at our house. Add to that tiny Mediterranean pasta — couscous — and toss with a lemony dressing with gobs of scallions or chives to hold it all together.

Eat your heart out, Popeye! Who’d want to eat canned spinach when you could have this salad? (If you aren’t old enough to remember Popeye, you can look it up on your phone.)

The recipe, which I found years ago and put to use right away in spinach season, calls for about 5 ounces of spinach, but who’s counting? You need a big pile, with larger stems torn out and cut into strips with kitchen shears. I just grab a handful and snip off the spinach in half-inch wide strips.

Fine couscous works, but why not change it up by using the pearl-sized Israeli couscous instead? Or if you don’t want to use wheat products, cook barley or rice — especially jazzier rice like black or red — to add instead. Start with a cup of dry couscous in a cup and a quarter of salted hot water, let it soak, and toss it to break up clumps.

Stir olive oil, lots of chopped parsley, scallions and lemon juice into the grains, followed by the shredded spinach, then toss it altogether to distribute the ingredients evenly. Then comes the lemony dressing, made with light cream, lemon juice and chopped chives — or more scallions if you don’t have chives. I usually add some to the salad and then serve more at the table for diners to add at will.

For the folks avoiding cream, a hit of mayonnaise thinned with lemon juice or seasoned rice vinegar works fine.

Around here, this salad is a main dish. You could add chicken, fish, or seafood like shrimp or scallops to your plate and let the salad stand in for veggies and starch.

Spinach and Couscous Salad

Serves four generously, up to six if served as a side dish.

1 cup of fine couscous

1 ¼ cup hot water

1 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 stalks of parsley, preferably flat, chopped

Scallions or chives, to taste

Half a pound of spinach

Lemony Dressing

1 cup of light cream

Juice of 1 lemon

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup of chopped chives or scallions

Soak the couscous in the hot, salted water until it is tender, then drain if water remains. Break up any clumps.

Add the lemon juice, olive oil and chopped parsley and scallions to the couscous, mixing well.

Shred the spinach and add the seasoned couscous to the spinach and toss well.

Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients together. Add a few tablespoons to the spinach and couscous mixture and mix so that the dressing is distributed evenly.

Sample and add salt if desired.

Serve the remainder of the dressing with the salad so people can add more if they wish.

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...