EATING FOR LIFE

Couscous adds texture, flavor and good nutrition to diet

Updated: 2013-08-21T01:29:14Z

By JILL WENDHOLT SILVA

The Kansas City Star

Editor’s note: This column originally ran in 2010.

There was a time not so long ago when the foods of the Middle East — hummus, pita chips, roasted red peppers and feta, for instance — were foreign-sounding foods.

Now these flavor-packed entertaining staples are the life of the party.

Likewise, instant whole-wheat couscous is a relative newcomer to the American dinner table. And it looks like it’s here to stay. Over the past decade, the popularity of the Mediterranean Diet has helped promote the North African staple as a healthy, whole-grain alternative to rice, potatoes and pasta.

Part of the appeal is that the coarse grain cooks quickly, like rice, and its fluffy texture adds interest to salads and side dishes like The Star’s Strawberry- Spinach Couscous Salad With Orange Vinaigrette.

Meanwhile, kids rarely reject something that looks like rice and features strawberries and raw spinach. Strawberries and spinach are fat-free, sodium-free and cholesterol-free; they’re also high in vitamin C and folate. Almonds add crunch and a bit of protein, and they are a good source of healthy monounsaturated fats.

•  Shopping tip: For testing, we used Casbah organic whole-wheat couscous. Other brands to look for include Near East and Hodgson Mills

•  Cooking tip: Chiffonade is a term that means to slice into thin strips or shreds. Wash leaves and shake off excess water. Stack leaves and roll lengthwise like a cigar, then use a sharp knife to finely slice into confetti-size threads.

To toast almonds, spread on a pan and bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 7 minutes; you may want to shake the pan to make sure they do not burn.

•  Serving tip: Our testers prefer this salad chilled, but it could be served at room temp.

Strawberry-Spinach Couscous Salad With Orange Vinaigrette

Makes 6 servings

1 1/3 cups whole-wheat couscous

2 cups water

2 cups fresh spinach, cut into chiffonade (see cooking tip)

1 1/2 cups strawberries, sliced

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup orange juice

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons toasted almonds (see cooking tip)

Prepare couscous in 2 cups water, according to package directions. Allow to cool slightly. Toss couscous with spinach, strawberries and green onions.

Whisk orange juice, vinegar, mustard and honey together. Add olive oil and blend well. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour dressing over couscous and toss gently. Sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Per (1-cup) serving: 231 calories (25 percent from fat), 7 grams total fat (1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 37 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams protein, 45 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.

Recipe developed exclusively for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss. To reach Jill Wendholt Silva, The Star’s food editor and restaurant critic, call 816-234-4347, send email to jsilva@kcstar.com or follow her on Facebook. Follower her on Twitter: @kcstarfood and @chowtownkc.

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