May 29, 2011

Southwest Couscous

It's no secret I have a wicked sweet tooth which I work hard to control every day, and I love to bake in every way, shape or form.  But, since this is a blog about making healthy choices, I figured it was high time that I posted something in the savory department.  This is my version of a recipe found in a wonderful cookbook by Robin Asbell, called The New Whole Grains Cookbook.  This book is a treasure trove of recipes for those of us wanting to incorporate more whole grains into our diets, but needing a little help and inspiration.  This is my riff on her Quick Bean and Vegetable Couscous recipe.  It comes together in a flash, which is great for those hectic weeknights, and is delicious.  It was a grande hit here at the house.  What I love about this recipe is that there are infinite possible variations...Middle Eastern, Indian, Italian, just by tweaking the spices and vegetables a little bit.

Fresh cilantro is such a great herb to have on hand.  Just a few chopped leaves adds such a bright note to whatever it is added to.  I keep mine upright in a glass jar, filled with water, in the fridge and chop off about 1/8-inch from the stems every few days and change out the water at the same time.  The bunch will keep very well like this for a good two weeks.

Toasted pepitas and chipotle peppers are the real southwest flair in this dish.  I added two large chipotle peppers, but you could certainly adjust that to taste.  Using the two large peppers added a medium level of heat.  I will probably add another pepper the next time I make this to kick it up another notch as TH and I like things kind of spicy (no innuendo intended, eh hem).  If you want it even spicier, add the seeds from the peppers as well.  The cool, crisp flavor from the cilantro is the yin to the yang of the smokiness of the peppers, and the pepitas provide just that little bit of crunch and almost corn-like flavor which melds so well with all the other ingredients.  Toast the pepitas very carefully in a 375 degree oven and remove them to a plate as soon as they are out of the oven as they will continue to cook and pop for a little bit.  I put mine on a small plate and give them a time-out in the freezer, which halts the browning.  I've had a batch of these go from almost done to inedible in a matter of seconds, so be vigilant!

I used whole wheat couscous for this recipe, but you could use whichever kind you like or bulgur would probably work as well.  The brand of couscous I use is Rice Select pearl whole wheat couscous, which the label says is "toasted Israeli style pasta".  I found it at Whole Foods but I know it is available in other stores and online.  It is definitely not as fine as a true couscous as you can see in the photos, but the texture pairs so well with the beans, vegetables and pepitas.  Have you tried avocado oil yet?  De-li-ci-o-so (I'm quickly running through my very short list of Spanish words that I know...bear with me, it'll be over soon)!  I am so glad I bought a small tin and gave it a try.  It has a very subtle and silky flavor, and I find it is nice alternative to olive oil in some recipes, like this one, and has very similar health benefits.

This is delicious AND high in fiber, plus adds a healthy portion of vegetables, beans, and heart-healthy nuts and oil. Great as a stand-alone vegetarian main dish or as a side, the recipe could easily be modified by the addition of some chicken or, as TH suggested, some chorizo, which we might try next time but I think the flavor and texture balance is just perfect as is, so I may be a little reluctant to make too many alterations, but...for mi amor, who knows...I could probably be persuaded.  

It's so nice when you find a recipe that ticks so many boxes for flavor, presentation and nutrition.  This is one of those recipes.  I hope you will give it a try and will let me know if it ticks those boxes for you as well.  Try adding some southwest flair, and spice, to your Martha would (kind of) say, it's a bueno thing!

Southwest Couscous

3 tablespoons avocado oil (or oil of preference)
1 large carrot, diced
1 large onion, diced
3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 large red pepper
2 large chipotle peppers (canned), de-seeded and de-veined, diced small
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained well and picked over (I always find three or four stem pieces)
1 15-ounce can black beans
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
1 1/4 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 cup whole wheat couscous
4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
2 ounces toasted pepitas

Heat the oil in a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid.  Add all the vegetables except the garlic and saute on medium-low heat until soft and just beginning to brown.  Add the minced garlic and cook another few minutes until the garlic just begins to brown.  Add the chipotle peppers, tomatoes, beans, salt, pepper and cumin and continue to cook until everything is heated through (just a few minutes).  Add the stock, stir, and bring to a full boil.  Remove from the heat, add the couscous, stir to incorporate evenly, and cover with the lid.  Allow to sit for approximately 15 to 20 minutes until all of the excess liquid is absorbed.  Stir in the chopped cilantro and pepitas, and serve.


  1. Humm... Mouth watering.... Love the flavors you have used …. This will be great option for me for my diet…. Thanks for a wonderful recipe. Love the pics :)

  2. Hi Meghna,

    Thanks for stopping by! Yes, this is actually a very healthy option for anyone trying to watch what they eat. As always, I try to make sure the recipe is tasty and something anyone would want to eat. Good-for-you shouldn't have to equate into being boring ;-)

  3. I'm loving the textures and flavors going on in this dish.How could anyone call that boring? It looks wonderful!I cant wait to try it.

  4. Alisa,

    Thank you so much for your comments. Let me know what you think once you make it. Another great thing about this dish (besides all the health and tasty bits) is that is reheats WONDERFULLY so I love making this on the weekends and then spoiling myself a little at work during the week. The flavors and textures stay vibrant. Thanks for stopping by...come back soon. I've got another vegetarian post coming soon with orzo and grilled DIE for!

  5. This looks really delicious. I thought I'd decided I wasn't a fan of couscous but this inspires me to try it again.

  6. Leslie,

    Thanks for stopping by, and for the nice words! I really think you will love this, and the whole wheat couscous is really closer to pasta or orzo than traditional couscous, so I think it might be more appealing to you. Let me know what you think once you give it a try!

  7. I sent it to my vegetarian friends too. A good new veg recipe is always welcome.

  8. This looks just lovely! Fresh, healthy and filling for any season. I usually use the smaller cous cous, but the pearls look beautiful in this dish. It's also a lovely passport back to the SW flavors I miss from home :)


So glad you came by! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!