So here we are in the gut of winter, many snowed in, perhaps going stir crazy (as I often do under such conditions). The pundits say variety is the spice of life, but sometimes the harsh winter weather limits that range of ability… unless you’re in the kitchen.
While variety may be the spice of life, I’d argue that spices enhance life, particularly the life of one’s cooking. Indian cuisine is practically built around spices (not to mention fresh vegetables), making it a nourishing and unique alternative to lunch or dinner. Food is often prepared with turmeric, a spice that offers researched health benefits that include protection against liver damage and certain types of cancers, anti-inflammatory and infection-fighting properties. Admittedly, since I’m not a fan of hot, spicy foods, my only exposure to Indian cuisine is the occasional episode of Aarti Party on The Food Network. Until now, as I realize that using spices does not necessarily make a food spicy.
I used fast-cooking whole wheat couscous as the platform in this recipe to inject a bit of Indian flavor. The earthy, vibrant turmeric mixes with the nutty, citrusy coriander (which has its own list of health benefits) to create a colorful base for this nutritious and filling side dish. I even used one of my several kitchen-related Christmas gifts– a coffee/spice grinder that quickly pulverized the coriander seeds to a fine powder (thanks, Mom!).
While the spiced couscous is certainly delicious on its own, why not infuse a bit more texture and nutrition with kale, winter’s favorite farmers’ market vegetable. Kale adds vitamins A, C and K and a host of other health benefits to supplement the whole wheat couscous. Turns out kale chips and soup are not the only wise uses for this vegetable.
And I have to wonder if kale may be one of the those “green leafy vegetables” that will be introduced in school lunches thanks to the new rule proposed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in an effort to tighten school nutrition standards. In a valiant (and long overdue) effort to combat childhood obesity, the government looks to decrease the amount of starchy vegetables while increasing the leafy green and orange ones, reduce sodium, establish calorie limits, increase whole grain and bean offerings, and minimize trans fats.
So as the USDA looks to add variety to school kitchens across the country, I’m adding a little variety of my own by “spicing” things up. Take that, snow.
Spiced Whole Wheat Couscous with Kale
Adapted from Not Just Recipes’ Couscous and Kale
- 1 cup whole wheat couscous (I used Rice Select)
- 1 ¼ cup chicken broth (you can use vegetable broth)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 3 cloves garlic, thin sliced
- 1 medium sized bunch of kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
- 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Optional: 1/4 cup finely grated Mozzarella or Parmesan cheese
- In a medium to large pot, bring to boil the chicken broth. Sprinkle turmeric and coriander over the boiling broth and stir in couscous.
- Reduce heat to medium and simmer per couscous package directions (about 5 to 10 minutes), stirring occasionally, until couscous is cooked through and broth is mostly absorbed. Place in mixing bowl and set aside.
- In large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add the sliced garlic and saute for a minute or two until it begins to soften.
- Stir kale into garlic, cover and cook for about 10 minutes more. Kale will reduce considerably.
- Stir kale mixture into couscous along with nutmeg and cheese if using. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.