It’s hard to argue with a dinner that takes 20 minutes from start to finish. Light and barely requiring any heat application whatsoever, this couscous dish is perfect for summer.
We ate it for dinner last Monday whilst enjoying a previously recorded episode of the newest Masterpiece Mystery series, Endeavor. Have you seen it? It. Is. So. Good. Granted I can’t say no to a single varietal of, well, any PBS show, but still. Love me a good mystery, especially set amidst the incredible scenery and architecture of Oxford, England in the 1960’s (the CLOTHES and CARS are just too fabulous). The acting is great and the episodes are very suspenseful but not “scary” enough to give me nightmares. I guess by that I mean that they aren’t especially gory. For the record, I’m known to leave the room during Disney movies, because they are “too scary.” Anyway, check it out here (and watch an episode!) because it is thought provoking and the quiet Constable Morse is brooding, mysterious and handsome. (In my maybe not so trustworthy opinion, anyway… I find myself disconcertingly attracted to, like, all the detectives.)
Now, regarding this recipe: I find myself having not much to say about it because it was crazy easy and turned out perfectly. (Do I generally crave something more substantial? Yes. Is it nice to eat a salad every now and then? The correct answer is yes.) If you don’t think it would be enough food for a dinner, go ahead and serve it along side a protein. I’ll put this out there, though: the couscous (a wheat-based teeny tiny pasta), nuts and carrots provide you with plenty of protein. That being said, I believe that it would do well to accompany a nice grilled fish or some marinated and grilled tofu. As for leftovers, I ate the extras for lunch the day or two after and they were great. Due to the absence of acid, the spinach didn’t really wilt.
I based my dish on a recipe I found in Real Simple called something like “Start with Couscous.” They do this thing where you start with one kind of random/boring ingredient and add stuff to it to make it more interesting. I’m not selling it very well but I find it helpful. Here’s the original recipe. I knew it would be bland, though, so I cooked my couscous (which I buy in bulk) in broth reconstituted from Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base. (I am so obsessed with Better Than B and use it in almost everything. You should be able to find it at any grocery store with the canned soups and bouillon cubes. If you’re having trouble, maybe look in the natural food section.) Since I didn’t have “directions on the box” to follow (per the Real Simple recipe) I found this great tutorial on The Kitchn (which is one of my MOST favorite websites ever, coming in right behind Food52–oh, the photography! I swoon.).
Instead of purchasing pre-roasted pistachios, I bought whole, raw ones (just as much as I needed for the recipe, from the bulk section) and then chopped and roasted them myself. They tasted really good–more flavorful than the bits and pieces, previously roasted ones that come pre-packaged.
Can I just say this one thing about nuts? They are damn expensive. And often come in packages that are bigger than you really need. I enjoy buying them in bulk whenever I can so that I can buy just enough for my recipe and roast, chop or otherwise prepare them myself. I think you get better flavor and less waste this way. Otherwise you’re probably going to want to keep them (raw, anyway) in the freezer since the delicate oils spoil rather quickly.
Finally, I added scallions (aka green onions) for a couple of reasons: I had them in the fridge and wanted to use them up, and I thought they’d add a bit more flavor to this otherwise good but not terribly exciting dish. Mark said it was too much onion and he’d prefer the dish without. I think I agree but I might just cut down the amount to just the green parts of one small scallion. I also chopped the spinach and upped the amount to about 4 cups, and prepared the carrots with a small julienne attachment on my mandoline. This final process was kind of a disaster: my poor mandoline is hopelessly dull and I’m not totally sure why. I was hungry and overly aggressive with getting the carrots through and lodged a big chunk under the blade, which bent the blade and nearly killed me trying to get it out. I think I need to either switch to a julienne peeler…
… or just stick with my trusty old knives. You can chop, slice or shred your carrots however you please. The reason why I chopped the spinach is because I thought it would be easier to eat without inadvertently flinging the couscous everywhere; I was right. You might be better at “eating like an adult” than I am. In which case, congratulations! Chopping spinach optional.
Couscous with Spinach, Carrots, and Roasted Pistachios
Time commitment: 20 minutes
Makes: about 4 servings
- 1 cup dry couscous
- 1 cup broth (I used reconstituted “No Chicken” Better than Bouillon)
- 1/2 cup pistachios, chopped and roasted
- 2 carrots, peeled and sliced, julienned, or grated
- 4 cups baby spinach, washed and chopped (or whole)
- 1 or 2 scallions, sliced (OPTIONAL)
- olive oil
- fresh ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small sauce pan, bring broth to a rolling boil. Remove from heat, stir in couscous, cover with a tight fitting lid, and let sit for about 10 minutes or until all the broth is absorbed. (Gently fluff with a fork to make sure there’s not a puddle of broth at the bottom. If there is, just put the lid back on and let it sit for a few minutes longer.)
- While couscous is sitting, roast pistachios for 6-7 minutes in a baking dish or until very lightly browned. You’ll know when they are done when you can just start to smell them. Prepare carrots and spinach, scallions if using.
- In a large bowl, add couscous, pistachios, spinach, carrots, and scallions. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper. Toss just until ingredients are evenly distributed. Taste, add more olive oil, salt, or pepper to taste, and serve.