Plain Couscous can be a little ho-hum, but this Whole Wheat Couscous with Saffron and Onion is delicious.
I was a slow to gain an appreciation for couscous, but after my neighbor Nancy introduced me to Whole Wheat Couscous it’s something I find myself thinking of much more frequently when I need a quick whole-grain side dish. I’ve enjoyed it in recipes like Whole Wheat Couscous with Green Onions and Parmesan and Whole Wheat Couscous Salad with Persimmons, Grapes, Green Onion, Mint, and Pine Nuts. Do you see the common theme here with both those recipes using pine nuts? I’m a firm believer that everything tastes good with pine nuts, and I found myself thinking that some pine nuts sprinkled on top would make a great addition to this recipe as well! But even if you skip the pine nuts, this whole wheat couscous with saffron and onions was a lovely side dish for some fish cooked on the grill.
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, but a tiny amount adds a lot of flavor. This recipe only uses 1/8 tsp. crushed saffron.
The technique of adding the saffron to the olive oil/butter before you saute the onions was a new one for me. Cook the onions just until they’re barely starting to brown.
The recipe called for 1 cup of chicken stock and 1 cup water, but I used a can of reduced-sodium chicken broth and added a little water to make 2 cups. Add this to the onions and bring to a boil.
As soon as the broth is boiling, stir in the couscous.
Cover the pan and let sit 5-6 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
Fluff couscous with a fork and serve hot, garnished with parsley or toasted pine nuts if desired.
Whole Wheat Couscous with Saffron and Onions
(Makes 4 side-dish servings, recipe adapted slightly from The Sunset Cookbook.)
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/8 tsp. crushed saffron threads
1 large onion, cut into half-moon slices
1 tsp. salt (or less, especially if you’re not using reduced-sodium chicken broth)
1 can (14.5 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth, plus enough water to make 2 cups total
1 pkg. (10 oz.) whole wheat couscous
chopped fresh parsley or toasted pine nuts to garnish, optional
In a small frying pan with high sides and a tight-fitting lid, heat olive oil and melt the butter. Add the crushed saffron threads and cook over medium heat 1 minute, stirring. Add the onion and salt and cook until onions are barely starting to brown, about 7-8 minutes. Break onion slices apart with a turner while they cook.
When onions are done, add chicken brother/water and bring to a boil. As soon as it is boiling stir in couscous, turn off head, cover pan with tight-fitting lid, and let it sit 5-6 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
Fluff couscous with a fork and serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley or toasted pine nuts if desired. This will keep in the fridge for several days and can be quickly reheated in the microwave.
Whole wheat couscous would be approved for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet. Butter is not recommended for South Beach, and I reduced the 3 tablespoons of butter in the original recipe to 1 tablespoon, which makes less than 1 tsp. of butter per serving. I like having a tiny bit of butter in this for flavor, but you could certainly use 3 tablespoons of olive oil if you prefer and I’m sure it would still be delicious.