Healthy Eating: Couscous Salad with Broccoli Pesto

Couscous Salad with Broccoli Pesto

I rarely eat what I photograph. I’m not getting any younger over here, and when you spend your day photographing food and booze … well, it can be tough to stay in shape. So, one of the biggest reasons I don’t eat everything I photograph is because I don’t want to turn into a big tub of goo. There are other reasons of course, – you can read about them in a post from a couple of months back, Do You Get To Eat That? – but health is a big one.

The one exception to the “I don’t eat what I shoot” rule has been the food that I’ve photographed for my food blog, Shoot To Cook. That blog was a great way for me to learn how to cook, and more importantly it gave me the opportunity to learn food and prop styling, and was a great outlet to try new photography techniques without the pressure of a client project. I miss that.

I don’t have the time or inclination to revive Shoot To Cook – after all, traditional blogging is being marginalized by Pinterest and other social media outlets, so why bother. Bottom line? When I feel the urge to make a recipe and photograph it, it’s going to end up here. We’ll see how it goes.

Back to the subject of not eating what I shoot: Turns out that abstaining from eating the beautiful, butter filled, wine braised, and pork belly wrapped food that I photograph every day isn’t enough to keep me as trim and fit as I’d like. Turns out that when I do eat, I should be eating healthier and smarter. After chunking on a few extra pounds over the last year, I decided to take some action. I heard great things about the Precision Nutrition program from my sister (who has lost an inspiring amount of weight over the past year), so I decided to sign up. At ten weeks in, I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself (down over 15 pounds) and I’m doing as much healthy cooking at home as I ever had in the past.

The Precision Nutrition program is best described as a coaching program that holds you accountable to sticking to better habits on a daily basis. I’m not going to proselytize any more than that, but so far it’s been great for me. ANYWAYS, one of the habits that I’ve been working on is adding a lot more veggies to my diet … and sadly pickles on a burger don’t count. As a result I’ve been eating a lot of steamed broccoli, which I found that I really like … and is super easy to make.

However, when I’m chopping up all of my broccoli florets, the big bottom stems always get cut off. It seems like a big ole waste to toss them in the garbage. I found that broccoli stems make excellent pesto, which can then be used as a fantastic dressing for a healthy salad. Pesto is basically a green of some sort (basil, spinach, kale, broccoli) plus nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts etc.) plus a hard cheese like parmesan, a couple cloves of garlic, and oil. I never really measure when I make pesto (particularly with the oil) so you’ll have to play it a bit by ear. If you have huge broccoli stalks, you may need more nuts and oil, if you have small ones you may need less. Just keep tasting until the flavor is as strong or mild as you want it. Enjoy!

Couscous Salad with Broccoli Pesto
Photograph by St. Louis Food Photographer Jonathan Gayman

Recipe: Couscous Salad with Broccoli Pesto


  • 2.25 cups water
  • 2 cups Israeli Couscous
  • 3-4 broccoli stems
  • 1/2 cup (or handful) of nuts (almonds, pine nuts, walnuts)
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (may need more or less)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 half of an English Cucumber, cut into strips or diced


  1. Bring the water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the couscous, reduce to heat to low and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the water has been absorbed. Transfer cooked couscous to a bowl.
  2. While the couscous is cooking, add the broccoli stems, nuts, parmesan, and garlic to a food processor and pulse until everything in minced. Then, with the processor running, slowly pour in the oil until you have a smooth paste. Add less oil for a chunkier pesto, add more for a smoother pesto. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the pesto to the couscous and mix until all of the pearls are coated. Allow to cool to room temperature or put in the fridge until chilled. When you’re ready to serve, toss in the cherry tomatoes and cukes. Tomatoes taste best at room temperature, so adding them right before serving will give you a fresher flavor.
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