Impulse Buys

August 5, 2010

I’m a careful Costco shopper.  Did you know Costco started in Seattle?  We’ve been members for as long as I can remember.  We go about every other month and I buy the same things over and over.  Paper towels, toilet paper, canned tomatoes, chickpeas, garbage bags, olive oil, string cheese, Diet Pepsi, beer, wine.  Occasionally I buy Ziploc bags, dish washing detergent, kids vitamins, ibuprofen, butter, Dijon mustard, dried pasta, some kind of cookbook, and nuts.  I am very very happy to tell you that I no longer need to buy diapers or wipes.  Or formula.  Hallelujah.

My point here is that I don’t get sucked in.  I know what I need and what I have room for.  I see people’s carts and wonder “where are these people putting all this stuff?”.  I am lucky in that I have plenty of room for impulse purchases, but I hate to have things on hand that I know I won’t use.  So there is not a lot of impulse shopping at Costco.

Once in a great while, I see something and I pounce without thinking too carefully.  I get sucked in by cheap pretzels and quinoa.  About a year ago, I found a 5 pound bag of Israeli couscous and very happily put it in my cart.  I love the stuff and it is not always that easy to find in regular grocery stores.  That 5 pound bag has been mocking me from the basement storage room.  Yes, thankfully I have a basement storage room for things like giant bags of Israeli couscous, but still.  What I have realized is that, while I love Israeli couscous, it’s not something I use all that often.

In my searches for a salad for the summer yoga retreat, I was thrilled to remember this one tucked away in one of my notebooks.  The flavors sounded wonderful, all things that I love, and it uses a lot of Israeli couscous.  Because I knew there were going to be 18 of us, I doubled the recipe.  The salad was a hit and partly because I loved it and partly because I still had lots of couscous, I made another giant portion of it to bring to a block party.  I even held back some of it so I could serve it as a side dish at a dinner party the night after the block party.   And yes, I still have couscous in that bag.  A lot of it.

Israeli Couscous previously on Dana Treat: Couscous and Mograbiah with Oven-Dried Tomatoes
One Year Ago: Grilled Potato Slices with Salt and Vinegar

Israeli Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
Adapted from Gourmet
Serves 6-8

For roasted tomatoes and dressing
2 pints red grape or cherry tomatoes (1½ pounds)
3 large garlic cloves, left unpeeled
¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
¼ cup warm water
Juice of ½ a lemon
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

For couscous
2½ cups vegetable broth
2 cups Israeli couscous
½ cup Kalamata olives, pits removed and sliced in half
½ cup basil, thinly sliced
¼ cup parsley, chopped

Roast tomatoes and make dressing
Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Place tomatoes and garlic, still in its peel on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a healthy pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Bake in the oven until the tomatoes are quite soft and starting to brown, about 20 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool slightly.

Peel garlic and purée with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and ½ cup roasted tomatoes in a blender until dressing is very smooth.  Set aside.

Make couscous
Bring broth to a boil in a large heavy saucepan and stir in couscous.  Simmer for about 3 minutes then cover pan and remove from the heat.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Spread couscous in 1 layer on a baking sheet and cool 15 minutes.

Transfer couscous to a large bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, dressing, roasted tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.  You may not need all the dressing so hold a bit back.

(DT: I found it best mix this salad with my hands so the tomatoes don’t get too squished.  You can make the couscous and dressing a day ahead and store them separately.  The couscous will stick together but add some of the dressing and work it with your hands before adding the rest of the ingredients.)


  1. I think I was at that block party on Tuesday! Did it have goat cheese in it as well? It was amazing, and I found myself looking online for a similar recipe the next day. Now I have it and I intend to make it ASAP. Thanks!

    Comment by Heather — August 5, 2010 @ 7:45 pm

  2. I love mixing with my hands, you can be so gentle and get a better idea on how things are dressed. Nice little tip ;) Looks tasty – I’m sure there are costco shoppers everywhere who are jealous of your self control.

    Comment by Sara — August 5, 2010 @ 7:52 pm

  3. I didn’t renew my Costco membership, no sense in buying these huge bags of stuff for 2 people, and I hate the lines!

    I make a very similar recipe w/ roasted cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, basil and arugula, it’s our summer favorite!

    Comment by Stacey Snacks — August 5, 2010 @ 8:22 pm

  4. looks tempting!

    Comment by alison — August 5, 2010 @ 8:23 pm

  5. My parents are the worst at shopping at Costco. Sometimes they go to Costco AND BJ’s (another wholesale store) in the same. Day. I buy my flour and sugar there because I go through them way too quickly for the good of my thighs.

    If I saw Israeli couscous, I would totally splurge on it. So no judgment. The salad looks fantastic! I love how simple and tasty it is.

    Comment by Joanne — August 6, 2010 @ 12:27 am

  6. Your blog is stunning, interesting, and makes me want to cook even more. I originally found it due to the pizza bianca recipe. I am early into examining all your others, too. Thanks.

    Comment by Abbott Weiss — August 6, 2010 @ 2:01 am

  7. Costco has definitely sucked me in to buying things more than once! Thankfully I usually stay away from food that’s too processed. This dish looks delicious and perfect for summer. I rarely eat Israeli couscous but I love it’s shape and bite!

    Comment by Ashley — August 6, 2010 @ 5:05 pm

  8. I try not to stay away from Costco but it is impossible! I love Costco! :) This couscous dish looks irresistible! Yum!

    Comment by Sook — August 7, 2010 @ 3:59 am

  9. You’ve got to love Costco. I certainly do! You just have to be smart and use restraint when shopping. I too was looking at the Israeli Couscous. If you like it, it must be good. Thank you again for sharing.

    Comment by Vivian — August 7, 2010 @ 10:15 pm

  10. I stick to my list pretty well when Costco shopping. I love the 5lb bags of organic sugar, and I always have to have a look at the book table. I haven’t seen Israeli couscous at my location, but now I’ll be looking for it! This sounds like a great way to use it.

    Comment by lisaiscooking — August 9, 2010 @ 7:38 pm

  11. I love Costco…in spite of being just two of us, we manage to shop there a lot…have you tried the Costco Business Center? It is awesome, they have lots of kitchen tools, restaurant grades and you do not need to but a bunch, most of them sell by unit. Anyway, your couscous look yummie, I love the texture of this couscous :-)

    Comment by Juliana — August 9, 2010 @ 9:57 pm

  12. I love Israeli couscous and have made this recipe too. The roasted tomatoes with the salty olives are fabulous! I agree with you about the bulk food stores- I always look at other people’s full carts and think where are they going to put this and are they really going to eat 8 boxes of oreos before they go stale ;)

    Comment by fresh365 — August 10, 2010 @ 2:58 pm

  13. this was so yummy! so excited for the leftovers tomorrow. thanks for sharing this.

    Comment by evan — August 18, 2010 @ 4:00 am

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