The unique flavors in this Pearl Couscous With Apples, Cranberries, & Herbs blend perfectly for a memorable side dish.
A few weeks ago we had some friends over for dinner.
Am I allowed to say that?
This is such a weird time where admitting to a dinner party feels like confessing an affair. (Also where coughing is the new farting.) Granted, our dinner group only just grazed the “gathering of 10 people” mark, so technically, we weren’t overstepping any official bounds. (There, now no one can yell at me in the comments.) Plus, personally, since having people over for dinner is something like a religious calling in my life, I felt pretty okay about inviting another family into our home after weeks of only virtual contact with friends.
While deciding a menu for our much-anticipated guests, I asked my husband if there was anything in particular he’d like to have on our special night. “How about that couscous thing you make?” he said, “The one with apples and herbs?”
I knew right away what he was talking about. I’ve been making this Giada de Laurentiis recipe for pearl couscous with apples, cranberries, and herbs for a few years now, and it’s one of those dishes that doesn’t *sound* like it’ll be anything spectacular–and then you eat it and go…
Not surprisingly, the wife of the couple who joined us for dinner ended up asking me for the recipe–not the first time someone has asked! Which I figure means it’s about time to share it on the blog.
So what makes this such a standout side? First of all, we have to give credit to the real star of this dish: the pearl couscous. If you’ve never had this larger, meatier type of couscous, you’re seriously missing out. It’s just the most delightful thing to eat–almost squeaky in its chewy roundness. Meanwhile, a savory olive oil and fresh herb dressing soaks into not only the couscous, but also into tart green apples, crunchy almonds, and sweet dried cranberries. While it may sound like more of an autumn combo, I think it’s one to enjoy all year round. It’s delicious all on its own, or serve it alongside grilled chicken or pork chops. Magnifico!
I’m happy I served this for our friends, and I stand by the decision to have them and their kids over for dinner. (I’ll even confess that we’ve now had friends over for dinner TWICE. Rebelzzzz.) Cooking for others after a lengthy stretch of isolation did wonders for my sense of well-being. And, if you ask me, while social distancing for physical health matters, connecting with others–yes, even in REAL LIFE–matters, too.
Pearl Couscous with Apples, Cranberries, and Herbs
For the couscous:
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 c. pearl (Israeli) couscous
- 32 oz. chicken broth
- 1/4 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 tsp. fresh thyme
- 1 c. dried cranberries
- 1/2 c. slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 Granny Smith apple, diced
For the dressing
- 1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 c. olive oil
Cook the couscous:
- In a large saucepan, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the couscous. Cook and stir until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is absorbed, 10-15 minutes.
Make the dressing:
- While couscous cooks, whisk together cider vinegar, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, and olive oil.
Put it all together:
- In a large serving bowl, combine cooked couscous, parsley, rosemary, thyme, cranberries, almonds, and apples. Stir in dressing and serve immediately.