The other day I was craving something spicy yet healthy, and I remembered this old recipe from my repertoire that I had created randomly over my stove a few years ago. Cous cous (and quinoa) has been one of my favorite grains to work with because of it’s sheer versatility. I can’t say that either cous cous or quinoa taste like a whole lot, but they beautifully sop up whatever flavors you add to them, and in a much healthier way than pasta and white rice do.
To quote directly from Wikipedia, ‘Cous cous is among the healthiest grain-based products. It has a glycemic load per gram 25% below that of pasta. It has a superior vitamin profile to pasta, containing twice as much riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate, and containing four times as much thiamine and pantothenic acid.Furthermore, couscous contains a 1% fat-to-calorie ratio, compared to 3% for white rice, 5% for pasta, and 11.3% for rice pilaf.’ Gosh, who knew that something healthy could taste SO good?
Spices are the easiest way to end up with a delicious dish without the fat. The extra-virgin olive oil in the recipe makes it heart healthy (most restaurants would use butter), and the nuts add even more protein to this dish. If any of you are like me, I always end up eating less quantity of a dish with nuts in it because it is more filling and satiates my appetite much more quickly than a dish sans nuts.
I’m sorry in advance for this recipe – it’s ridiculously addictive :). The sweetness of the butternut squash against the spiced cous cous and crunchy nuts is amazing and doesn’t hurt your calorie count. I hope you spice up your kitchen with this lovely recipe – it’s sure to make your kitchen smell deliriously delicious! 🙂
PS – Tomorrow, I will be posting a Maple & Mustard Glazed Salmon recipe that pairs beautifully with this side dish. NOT TO BE MISSED! 🙂
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (2 out of 5 tablespoons reserved for final assembly)
2-2.5 cups small-dice butternut squash
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or cayenne pepper powder)
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup peanuts, roasted
[Note: you can buy nuts already toasted/roasted – no need to add to your work load! I get my nut fix at Trader Joe’s]
2 1/4 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth or water
1 1/2 cups Israeli cous cous or whole-wheat cous cous
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it simmers, add cubed butternut squash and all the spices, including salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cook until squash is browned and fork tender, about 20-25 minutes – stir occasionally to brown evenly. Mix in the almonds and peanuts, and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes to get the nuts a little extra roast.
Bring broth or water to a boil, pour over couscous, cover, and set aside until couscous is tender and liquid has been absorbed, about 5 to 10 minutes (per package instructions).
Stir in the spiced nut and butternut squash mixture into the cous cous, add in 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and taste seasonings and adjust salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with sliced green chili pepper, if desired.
Enjoy hot or cold! 🙂