A few posts ago we asked what recipes people were looking for lately and someone (was it Natalee?) asked for more sides. I couldn’t agree more that sides are tricky. They somehow end up being an afterthought, which isn’t that strange when you consider dinner on the table at all a minor miracle several nights of the week. So, we’ve been thinking about some new twists on sides and I’m pretty darn pleased with what I came up with this weekend. Well, really I’m pretty darned pleased with what I found at the grocery store: Whole Grain couscous! Who knew? I love couscous and so do the kids. Which was all very nice until I realized that it’s basically little balls of white pasta. So, delicious but not the healthiest addition to a meal. But I just recently came across whole grain couscous and Israeli couscous. If you haven’t tried Israeli couscous, it’s just a larger pearl and actually much more satisfying to eat. Think of it like risotto – you want to cook it until it’s al dente and with a little bit left to it.
Ben was cooking up a Middle Eastern lamb feast for dinner tonight so I thought I’d make a pilaf to go with that. This was easy peasy to put together and tasted better after being in the fridge for an hour while the rest of the meal was coming together. The pilaf ended up being satisfying and light – it would be an easy thing to bring to a barbecue or a potluck dinner. The kids weren’t sure about it until I reminded them that couscous is really just balls of pasta. I’m already thinking of the fall versions…. chunks of butternut squash with pecans and goat cheese…. okay, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let me know if you try it and also let us know what your favourite sides are. We love hearing from you!
Whole Grain Couscous Pilaf
1 onion, chopped
glug of olive oil
1 cup, whole grain Israeli couscous
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped tomato
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1 small handful of mint, chopped
1 small handful of parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon
1 tsp honey
good pinch of salt and pepper
In a medium pot, bring olive oil to a medium heat. Add the chopped onions and let them soften and just start to brown for about five minutes. Add the couscous and stir to cover every pearl in oil. Stir often and let the couscous absorb the oil for about three to five minutes. Stir in the stock and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer. The instructions on my package said to cook the couscous for 20 minutes but I needed to turn the heat off sooner, so keep a close eye. I let mine get almost al dente then I turned the heat off and put the lid on. That seemed to do the trick.
Next get your veggies ready. Toss together the chopped vegetables, feta, mint and parsley. Add the cooked couscous and stir together.
Mix up your dressing and add the couscous. Give it all a good stir. I only used about 2/3 of my dressing but you might like yours a bit more luxurious. Pop in the fridge while you’re getting the rest of your dinner together. It will come to room temperature quickly once it’s on the table.