When "what's for dinner?" is their favorite question, the answer is this easy hot and hearty Italian couscous. Makes a great side with a protein and can be tweaked with the bounty from any season.
photo styling: Paige Wassel | photography: Hartman Pictures
'Member that old commercial "Beef—it's what's for dinner"? And, if you don't, just pretend like you do. For me, "Pasta—it's what's for breakfast, lunch and dinner" is more like it. It's not really PC these days to crave pasta but it runs through these veins. Can't help it. FYI, PC stands for paleo or protein, whichever is your preference, not that other 'P' word which will not make it into this blog. Thank goodness this couscous did make the cut.
Did you know couscous is pasta? It has the same essential ingredients like durum wheat and water except it's in little round balls and I love that you can eat it with a spoon. Couscous make a great dish for the little ones in your life and because you steam it rather than boil it, you can infuse it with lots of great flavor during the cooking process. Any broth or stock can be used instead of the water and even a little wine (but not for the bambinos - I know you know that- just have to cover the bases, dahling).
This Quick Italian Couscous delivers big flavor in a short amount of time. Whether for a weeknight dinner or a relaxing al fresco supper, this dish has a ton of flexibility in that once you get down the steps you can tweak it with any vegetables or protein you like. you work in the usual suspects: tomatoes that are stovetop caramelized, lots of garlic, spinach and cheese. Instead of a Parmesan, this amazing Israeli feta is added for salty pop and rich decadence. It's a sheep's milk cheese which typically is easier to digest. If you have some troubles with the dairy in your life, give sheep's milk products a go. You might find you're able to let cheese back into your life. Cue the cymbals.
The best part of the tomatoes in this dish is the cooking process. It's so satisfying watching those little gems dance all over the pan until they settle down and get good, comfy and caramelized. And then the greens jump in adding color and health and things good. Finally, the garlic joins the party just for a bit so as not to burn and add that necessary bite. You might even try adding roasted garlic for another level of flavor. Haven't tried that yet - not sure why- but how can it NOT be good, right?
Quick Italian Couscous is best served at room temperature. Because it comes together so quickly, you can make the couscous ahead of time and do the veggie portion right before serving. It does make great leftovers; however the greens don't stay as bright of a green so that's something to keep in mind. But don't let it stop you from eating those leftovers or making it ahead of time if that's what you have to do. The friends and family in your life will be grateful you made it. It's what's for dinner, after all.
For a few: The great thing about this dish is it can be made for as many or as few as you are expecting. And if there's leftovers, even better. Italian Couscous is amazing cold, at room temp or any way you eat it.
For a crowd: Italian couscous is clutch at a party. Make a big batch and put into individual cups on for a passed bite or a big platter on a buffet makes a statement.
Quick Italian Couscous
- 1 box Trader Joes Pearled Couscous
- 3 T olive oil
- 1 T chopped garlic
- ½ pint grape tomatoes
- 3.5 oz fresh arugula, or any favorite green
- 3.5 oz fresh baby spinach
- 2 oz Trader Joe's Israeli feta
- s/p, to taste
- parmesan cheese, optional
- balsamic vinegar
- Cook couscous according to package directions and keep warm. If making in advance, refrigerate until you're ready to use it (no more than 2 days) and bring to room temp or warm in microwave.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet until fairly hot.
- Add tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper
- Saute tomatoes until they burst and get golden on the underside
- Add the spinach and arugula (or your favorite greens) by the handful along with the garlic and more salt and pepper.
- Working quickly, saute the vegetables together until the greens wilt to your satisfaction. The whole process should take about 1-2 minutes - TOPS.
- Place couscous in a shallow bowl and spoon over tomatoes and greens. Top with cheeses if using and add chicken or a protein if you want. Finish with a healthy drizzle of balsamic and season to taste.