This recipe originally appeared in the November 2018 issue.

For our November 2018 “Feast Around the World” feature, we asked five of the state’s top chefs to create festive meals to serve this season. What we got was a cornucopia of global flavors. 

For her sophisticated feast, Denise Shavandy, the executive chef at Café Modern—the restaurant at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth—was inspired by the Persian and Turkish dishes expertly prepared by her mother-in-law. Below, find one of two side dishes for Shavandy’s “East Meets West” menu.

Saffron Couscous Beet Salad

For one of her two “East Meets West” vegetable side dishes, chef Denise Shavandy uses za’atar vinaigrette to add extra flavor.
Servings 6


Za’atar Vinaigrette

  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar spice blend
  • ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons agave syrup
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil, mild-flavored
  • salt to taste


  • 16 baby beets, any color, green tops removed


  • pinch of saffron
  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups Israeli (pearl) couscous
  • 8 ounces baby lettuce leaves, optional (salad can be made without lettuce)
  • 1 pound goat cheese, Texan if possible, such as Latte Da or Pure Luck
  • ¼ cup chopped pistachios, salted or unsalted


Za’atar Vinaigrette

  • In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, za’atar, mustard, and syrup, then add oil in a slow stream, continuing to whisk until emulsified. Season with salt (some za’atar blends contain salt, so taste first).


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Put beets in a shallow casserole dish with about an inch of water and cover with aluminum foil.
  • Roast until easily pierced by a fork, 45 to 60 minutes.
  • Cool beets just enough to handle, and use paper towels to rub off skin.
  • Cut into quarters and refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.


  • Put 2½ cups water in a small pot along with saffron, olive oil, and salt, and bring to a boil.
  • Spread couscous in a shallow casserole dish, pour boiling saffron mixture over it, and cover immediately.
  • Steep 10 to 15 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork. Chill before serving.

To assemble

  • Place lettuce (if using) on individual salad plates, then Couscous and Beets. Drizzle with Za’atar Vinaigrette and top with crumbled goat cheese and chopped pistachios.