Tropical taste

Try this summer-friendly couscous hot or cold.

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I remember the first time I ate Tropical Couscous. It was a hot July day in ’01. The kind that makes you want to sit and sip something cool and not move, never mind cook. My sister-in-law, always seemingly prepared for such times, had made this dish ahead of time and thought to pull it out of the fridge when we decided it was time to eat. It was a feast for the eyes! The color of the vegetables and the aroma of the pineapple and cilantro drew us all in. In the heat of the day, the cool meal was not only welcome but delicious. A dish my vegetarian daughter would eat? Check. One I could add chicken to for my son? Check. Easy prep and versatility? Check and check. I knew right away it would be something I had to add to my recipe binder.

Although by now I know the recipe by heart, I still pull out my binder of recipes and flip to the page. The truth is, the page is so worn and stained, it often sticks to another page in the binder, and I have to hunt for it. It’s as if the recipe is asking to be retired. But alas, I can’t. It’s just that good, and my family always asks for it. You know you’ve “arrived” in cooking when someone else’s recipe becomes yours … as in, “Jo, what would you like for dinner?” and the reply is, “Can you make your Tropical Couscous?” Easy to prepare and put together, it never seems a chore, as it is always well received and gone, it seems, in an instant.

As I’ve said, it is very versatile. It can be served hot or cold, and travels well in a covered dish.

I’ve made this recipe in all seasons, but in summer’s warmth, it’s always in rotation. It just seems to fit this time of year. I’ve been known to take a shortcut or two with the recipe if I don’t have fresh ingredients on hand. No one seems to notice sometimes that the pineapple isn’t fresh but out of a can, and I’ve been known to leave out the chicken broth and sub in water for preparing the couscous, or leave out the almonds for my nut-allergic friends. I’ve also recently been adding some washed lime zest to the finished dish for added appeal. I’ve modified my sister-in-law’s recipe to be more heart-healthy too. No vegetables sautéed in butter anymore! I use a tablespoon or two of canola oil instead. I typically prep the ingredients and the dressing ahead of time, or if I’m out and about, in stages throughout my busy day, and simply toss it all together when I’m ready. Enjoy!

Tropical Couscous

Makes five ½-cup servings

Follow box directions to cook 1 box dry plain couscous in 1 cup chicken broth and
1 cup pineapple juice. Set aside.

Sauté and set aside in a large bowl:

1 large onion, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped

Prepare and put aside separately

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 cup pineapple, diced finely

Dressing

2 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 Tbsp. pineapple juice
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper

Fluff cooked couscous. Combine cooked couscous with the sautéed vegetables and mix until combined. Add the pineapple and combine. Add dressing to the mixture and combine. Just before serving, add most of the cilantro and all of the toasted almonds and combine. Use the remaining cilantro to dress the top. Can be served warm or cold.