Couscous: The pasta so nice they named it twice!
I’m honestly not a huge pasta fan. I don’t crave it the way many other people do. While I’m almost always happy eating it, it’s not something I seek out, and I almost never order it at a restaurant (well, except maybe when mac and cheese is concerned). But pasta is incredibly versatile. It’s a blank canvas for just about any variety of mix-ins of any sort of cuisine, and nearly every culture around the world has their own spin on pasta.
Enter: Couscous. These tiny little beads of whole-wheat flour and water are light and fluffy, never gummy like some whole-wheat pastas can be. This texture pairs perfectly with crisp veggies and minimal dressing. Nothing heavy here! It’s great hot or cold, on a bed of greens or by itself. It’s the perfect sidedish for a picnic or barbecue. And it couldn’t be easier to make.
In fact, if you make a recipe with couscous, it’s best to have all your ingredients at the ready before you even reach for a pot. The 1 cup of water will come to a boil in a minute or two, and once you mix in the couscous, it’s just five more til mealtime.
Last night I made this with a Mediterranean flair, but you could just as easily make this any style you want. Here are some ideas:
Mediterranean: Combine couscous with chickpeas, roasted red peppers, red onion, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, olives, and feta. Sprinkle with lemon juice and parsley.
Mexican: Add black beans, corn, avocado, jalapeno, garlic, and cumin powder. Top with some fresh salsa and cilantro.
Italian: Mix in sun-dried tomatoes, basil, colorful bell peppers, goat cheese, cannellini beans and garlic.
Asian: Add carrots, edamame, peanuts, red bell peppers, cabbage, and top with a dressing made of rice vinegar, soy, and sriacha sauce.
Middle Eastern: Make a couscous tabbouleh with some parsley, mint, garlic, and the juice and zest of a lemon.
As you can see, the underlying theme is some beans, some colorful veggies and maybe a bit of cheese, with a light dressing. This is a great way to use up extra vegetables if you’re like me and buy a pack of 6 bell peppers on Tuesday, forgetting about the 4 you bought last Friday and haven’t used. Feel free to add chia or flax seeds for a nutritional boost! They’ll also help soak up any excess moisture your veggies impart.
There’s no magic ratio, but I would use at least 1 cup veggies to 1 cup couscous, and start with a tablespoon of dressing — remember, you can always add more but you can’t take it out!
What are some of your favorite veggie combinations?