Pasta & Grains, Vegetarian

Yield: 8 servings.

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic (about 2 tsp minced)
11/2 cups couscous
1 tsp ground cumin
3 cups hot vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup raisins or currants
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or dates
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or mint
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds

Experience the fabulous flavors of the Mediterranean with this colorful dish. You can use regular or whole wheat couscous, or try the pearl-shaped grains of pasta known as Israeli couscous (or maftoul), which are much larger and more versatile than the typical Moroccan couscous. You can substitute the couscous with orzo (a rice-shaped pasta), bulgar, or quinoa.

  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet on medium heat. Add the onions, red pepper, and garlic; sauté for 6 to 7 minutes or until golden.
  2. Stir in the couscous and cumin and cook for 2 minutes longer or until golden. Slowly add the hot broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes or until the couscous is tender.
  3. Stir in the raisins, apricots, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with parsley and pine nuts and serve.

Keeps for up to 3 days in the refrigerator; reheats well. Freezes well for up to 2 months.

264 calories per serving, 43.7 g carbohydrate, 3.9 g fiber, 6 g protein, 7.9 g fat (0.8 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 182 mg sodium, 345 mg potassium, 2 mg iron, 42 mg calcium

Couscous with Mushrooms and Chickpeas: Sauté 2 cups of sliced mushrooms with the onions, pepper, and garlic. Instead of cumin, add 1 tsp dried basil or thyme. Replace the dried fruit and nuts with 11/2 cups of cooked or canned chickpeas, rinsed and well-drained. One serving contains 242 calories, 40.6 g carbohydrate, 4.5 g fiber, 5.6 g fat (0.7 g saturated).

Couscous with Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Omit the cumin, dried fruit, and nuts. In Step 3, stir in 1 tsp Italian seasoning and 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, rinsed and drained. If desired, add 1/2 cup sliced pitted black olives. One serving contains 192 calories, 32.2 g carbohydrate, 3.1 g fiber, 4.8 g fat (0.6 g saturated).