Orange, Apricot and Carrot Couscous

Orange, Apricot and Carrot Couscous

Once I moved to Kansas City, it didn’t take long for my friend to convince me to give online dating a shot. All my friends here are married—so married that they didn’t know any single guy friends to set me up with. I work from home, too, so I wasn’t meeting eligible bachelors at my nonexistent office. The only guys knocking on my door were from UPS, USPS or FedEx.

One evening, I conceded that none of the delivery guys were my soulmate and that maybe my insistent friend had a point. I poured myself a glass of wine and found myself setting up a profile on an online dating site. I poured another glass and worked up the courage to upload a photo. To my pleasant surprise, messages started flooding into my inbox. Some were sweet, some made me laugh, several were offensively forward (looking at you, BeefCake79), and others were so laden with grammatical errors that I couldn’t take them seriously. Although I dismissed the vast majority of them, I was quite flattered by them all.

oranges, apricots, raisins and ume vinegar

I agreed to go out for a beer with a guy who seemed nice and cute, but came home feeling jittery and awkward. I called my best guy friend and we declared, “Next!” After another date, I realized that online dating is a lot like shopping for shoes online. You never quite know what you’re dealing with until you see them in real life and try them on for fit.

I started going on coffee shop dates just for an excuse to get out of the house. I called up my guy friend after each one to share observations. Such as, 5 feet 10 inches online is a lot more like 5 feet 8 inches in real life. Not smiling in pictures? Crooked teeth. Looong paragraphs under the “about me” section? Narcissism confirmed, steer clear.

couscous and red onion

December rolled around, and I was about ready to give up on this online dating thing. Then a picture of a most handsome fellow with his most fluffy mutt popped up on my screen. He seemed pretty great “on paper”—a free thinker, former vegetarian, home coffee roaster. I decided to play it cool, to let him know I visited and see if he messaged me first. Ba-ding! He complimented my weakness for bacon and we wrote back and forth for a week.

We made plans to meet at the art museum. I was nervous because I’d never enjoyed writing to anyone so much before. I was running a few minutes late, of course, so I hurried over to the gift shop to look for him. He smiled and said, “Hey,” and I knew I was done with online dating right then. He opened up a kids’ book to show me a life-sized photo of a llama. I laughed, and he was done. We explored the photography exhibit we’d come to see—Terry Evans’ heartland retrospective. Then we wandered around the museum until they wouldn’t let us wander around any more, and the days we’ve spent together since have been a blur of smiles and wagging tails. Cheesy, yeah, but also all sorts of wonderful.

carrots and couscous

This couscous recipe is courtesy of a sweet reader named Enid. She emailed me months ago and I filed her recipe away for winter. The couscous is a quick, light meal or side dish that you can make with pantry ingredients. I was afraid some of the ingredients might be hard to find, but was happy to find whole wheat couscous at Trader Joe’s, and ume vinegar at the health store for under three dollars. Ume vinegar is a plum vinegar with a pretty pink hue that balances out the sweetness of the orange juice and dried apricots. Once I saw the bottle, I realized I’d seen it at several stores, so I hope you don’t have trouble finding it.

I couldn’t resist tinkering around with the recipe just a bit, but that’s not to say that it wasn’t perfect as is. I added a carrot, since I had one and it seemed like a good idea. I misread her instructions to finely dice the onion and thinly sliced it instead, but my handsome fellow and I enjoyed the way it turned out regardless.

Orange, Apricot and Carrot Couscous Recipe

Orange, Apricot and Carrot Couscous
4.8 from 5 reviews
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
A quick couscous salad featuring a delicate balance of sweet, crunchy and tangy winter flavors. Be sure to have your ingredients prepped before you set the pot on the stove to start boiling, because once that happens, this salad comes together very quickly.
  • 1 cup whole-wheat couscous
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed)
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 teaspoons ume plum vinegar
  • sea salt
  • 10 dried apricots, thinly sliced (about ⅓ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons dried currants or raisins
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ medium-sized red onion, finely sliced or diced (about ½ cup)
  • 1 medium carrot
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  1. Pour couscous into a medium-sized bowl and set aside. In a small pot, combine water, orange juice, olive oil, 4 teaspoons vinegar and a pinch of sea salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and add the dried fruit and ginger. Let simmer for about 1 minute.
  2. After a quick stir, pour the liquid mixture over the dry couscous. Stir just to eliminate any pockets of dry couscous. Use a vegetable peeler to peel the carrot into ribbons over the couscous, then cover the concoction with a plate or tea towel to trap the heat.
  3. The couscous will cook by itself in about 15 to 20 minutes. In the meantime, rinse the sliced onion under running water and then toss it with 1 teaspoon vinegar in a small bowl to mellow the flavor. In a small pan over medium heat, toast the pine nuts until lightly golden and fragrant, tossing frequently to prevent burning.
  4. When the couscous is cooked, fluff it with a fork, then mix in the onion and pine nuts. Serve warm or chilled.
[i]Recipe adapted from Enid's orange couscous.
Make it nut free: Simply omit the pine nuts.


  1. says

    That’s such a cute story for Valentine’s Day. Ya know…it makes you feel good to read happy stories! I’m a fan…of the couscous too! What can you use if you can’t find that ume vinegar? Think red wine word work or would that be too strong?

    • says

      Thanks, Maria. I think red wine vinegar would be a pretty good substitute if you can’t find the ume vinegar, but I hope you can! It’s the perfect complement for the flavors in the dried fruit.

  2. says

    I am ALL over the flavors in this recipe!! A perfect bright and filling wintery dish! And your story….completely adorable….wagging tails!! Wishing you all the best. :)

  3. says

    Yes! So happy to see you sharing your love story on this day of bows, arrow, hearts and Cupid striking right through your heart. So excited to share in the next chapters of your adventure with handsome man. The fact that he’s a good dog sitter only makes it that much better. XO

  4. says

    Awww, such a sweet story. Glad you managed to filter through the duds and find a gem :) Whole wheat cous cous is always on my list of things to stock up on and bring back with me from trips back to North America. I’m plumb out right now, but I might give it a go with regular cous cous. I have no idea where I’d find ume vinegar, maybe at an Asian market or something? I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

  5. Grace says

    LOVE this. So so happy for you!! This post made me laugh and have me hope. (Online dating is totally like shoe shopping! Been there.) Happy Valentines Day!

  6. says

    Reading this post has put me in such an incredibly good mood, thank you so much for sharing and I’m so glad you’ve found someone who seems so perfect for you, Happy Valentine’s Day!

    • says

      Thanks again, Cara. Hope you are enjoying this day as a newlywed! I think he also showed me a life-sized picture of a goat… anyway, it worked. :)

    • says

      Hang in there! I had to go on a bunch of so-so dates and a couple of promising-yet-ultimately-disappointing dates to find a great guy. I’m glad I did it, though.

  7. says

    Your story sounds similar to me and my boyfriends’ (we met on OkCupid!)…I knew by date 2 that he was the one. And that was that. :) I’m so happy for you!!

    And this couscous…YUM. I’m all about anything moroccan with dried apricots in it…so this is a must-do!

  8. says

    Love this recipe, love your blog, and love your story! In fact, it sounds a lot like mine. I met my amazing dog-loving husband through online dating, too. :) Sometimes it really works! One question – how do you think spinach would do in this recipe? I love to add green wherever I can.

    • says

      Please pardon my delayed response, Jillian. Our stories are quite similar! I think spinach would be a great addition here. If you find that you need to add more dressing, be careful with the ume vinegar—it’s super salty so a little goes a long way.

  9. Sue in RI says

    I am grinning from ear to ear from happiness for you. And now I can say it: “I told you so!” ;-) Happy Valentine’s Day and fervent wishes for a lifetime of love and joy.

  10. Stephanie says

    Yay! So glad to hear this guy has turned out to be all you thought he might be (and perhaps more) since I first heard of your potential new love interest! (Can I say love? It’s Valentine’s day so I’m using the word freely!) Hope I get to see you and possibly meet him too! Maybe Josh and I need to plan a trip up your way…

    • says

      Well, I’m totally behind in responding to comments. Sorry, Steph! Yes, of course, come visit any time. You guys can have my apartment all to yourselves.

  11. says

    I love whole wheat couscous; was pleasantly surprised to conclude that it tastes better than the paler version. Something about the scent of couscous always reminds me of being a kid (I was a picky eater) and my mom making dinner…I think that makes it comfort food.

  12. says

    Aww what a cute story! I’m a huge sucker for chick flicks and this would be an awesome real-life-turned-chick-flick story! Happy Valentine’s Day! :)

  13. says

    Cute story! Online dating always gets such a bad wrap, but how else are you going to meet people in a new place? It’s also a great way to meet a lot of people quickly and get lots of free meals ;-)

    The salad looks tasty! I bought a huge thing of whole wheat couscous and haven’t touched it yet

  14. says

    Kate – this is such a great story, and I plan to promptly forward it to a number of friends who I have been encouraging to do more online dating. The comparison to online shoe-shopping seems so perfect! Happy Valentine’s Day! (And PS. How did I miss that you live in my hometown – YAY KC!)

  15. says

    Your dating story is too cute! I am glad all those duds led to a winner! Also my best friend met her boyfriend online and they are now living together and blissfully happy! I love these flavors! I think they would translate to any kind of grain.

  16. says

    What a lovely story and what a lovely recipe! Kudos to you for having the courage to sign up for online dating in the first place… I’m not sure that’s something I could ever do. I could, however, make a huge batch of this salad and eat it all in one sitting. Because I love couscous that much.

  17. says

    So true about online dating – you never know who you’re dealing with until you meet them in person. I did my share of this for some time and found it enormously entertaining – even though I didn’t find my soul mate there. I did find him somewhere else, so it’s all good in the end.

  18. says

    I knew you’d find a good one! So happy for you girly! You deserve nothing but the best.

    And you know I’m in love with this couscous dish, right?!?

  19. says

    Woohoo to finding a man that is worthy of your greatness AND does some home-roasting! This is important.

    I admittedly don’t do the couscous thing much, but the thought of it sloshing around in ume dressing with pine nuts? I’m down for that in a serious way. So pretty, Kathryne!

  20. says

    I’m trying to convince my best friend to give online dating a go and she decided to sign up–but I think is a little afraid of it and unsure still about the prospects. I’ve sent this post to her as a little boost! :)

    This couscous salad looks delicious. I keep meaning to buy ume plum vinegar, I’ve heard great things about it. Definitely bookmarking this!

  21. says

    What a nice tale. So glad this Valentine’s Day has been treating you well! I love the looks of this cous cous salad, and can’t wait to make it for a family lunch.

  22. Sini says

    So happy for you Kate! Loved how you wrote about online dating. I’ve been thinking about it every now and then but am not quite sure if it really is the right thing for me. Your post was encouraging! ;) Greetings to your Mr. Handsome.

  23. says

    This looks really good – would also work well with quinoa, which I’m currently obsessed with. I love quinoa with dried fruit. I’m also glad online dating worked for you! Online dating wasn’t too kind to me. I went on so many dates with boys I didn’t really like and when I finally liked one or two of them, all they wanted was to keep seeing other girls. Obviously, this turned me off from online dating and two weeks after I deactivated, I met my current boyfriend at work.

  24. says

    This looks delicious! I love couscous.
    And, congrats!! My husband and I started dating young so I haven’t been on many first dates – I can’t imagine how nerve wracking that could be! So glad that you found someone wonderful.

  25. says

    How exciting Kathryn! I smiled through your whole post, I love hearing about others love stories. My husband and I met when we were young and in collage, so I’ve never done the whole dating thing, but am oddly fascinated by it. Thanks for the little glimpse into your dating world : )

    • says

      I changed his user name just slightly to protect his privacy. ;) I can’t say online dating was all that fun (I don’t like to go on dates just to go on dates), but I’m glad I did it!

  26. Pearl Martin says

    I made this with qunioa and it came out so good! I served it up with a side salad and a good glass of vino and I was the hero of the night. Thanks for all your great recpies and congrats to you!

  27. says

    Kate, this recipe is wonderful! Thank you. It was so simple, yet impressed my dinner guests — and even my husband, who never asked “where’s the meat?” I’m going to put it into regular rotation… great flavors, colors and textures. You make it look so pretty here :)

    • says

      Great question, Megan. I’ve heard from another commenter that quinoa works well in this recipe! You might need to adjust the liquid/OJ and cooking time for quinoa.

  28. Shashi says

    It’s so unlikely that you’ll be checking this between now and tomorrow but just in case, I wanted to know if you can make the couscous one day in advance? Your blog is great and we just made your Sweet potato hummus – delicious! Thanks for sharing! Happy holidays!

  29. says

    I love the little stories you include with your recipes, it makes your blog refreshing to read in comparison to others that are like “here is the recipe – enjoy.” :)

    I admit when I read this recipe I umhed and arhed a little sceptical that it would turn out nice. But, OMG! There was like a little disco parting in my mouth! You haven’t failed us yet!

    Thank you and Keep up the amazing work! :) x

  30. Claire says

    Hi Kate! I discovered your blog couple day ago and I’ve been following it religiously ever since. Your recipes are AMAZING, your beautiful photos make them even more appealing and I really enjoy the posts that complement them!

    I tried this recipe yesterday and the whole family loved it. We were just wondering how we could adapt it to use quinoa instead of couscous, since the cooking method is very different.

    Thanks a lot, and keep up the great work :)

    • says

      Thank you so much for saying hello, Claire! Delighted to hear that you appreciate my blog. Great question on the quinoa. I’d combine 1 cup water and 1 cup orange juice with 1 cup rinsed quinoa, bring it to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the ginger and dried fruit. Top with carrot ribbons, cover and let it all steam for 5 minutes or longer. Stir in some olive oil, the onion and pine nuts. I think that’ll work!

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