Easy dinner recipes: Quick couscous variations

When it comes to versatility, you can't do much better than couscous. Typically a fine granular semolina pasta, couscous works in both savory and sweet dishes, and can be served hot or cold. Like pasta, add vegetables and/or meat for a main dish, or perhaps fold it in with lightly dressed lettuces or herbs for a salad. Sweeten it and add milk, nuts and/or fruit for a sweet finish to a meal.

A perfect dish for summer, Houston's couscous combines raisins, tomatoes, almonds and parsley with fresh chopped radish and green onion. The couscous and bulgur wheat salad is brightened with fresh mint and a dash of lemon juice, and comes together in about an hour.

RECIPES: 63 dinner ideas in an hour or less

Vertical Wine Bistro's variation features large, pearly couscous flavored with chopped fresh herbs and garlic and a touch of bright tang from lemon juice and vinegar. It's rounded out with complex notes from the Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout. The dish is perfect made ahead of time to give the flavors time to marry before serving.

Or try a basic quick couscous recipe as a springboard for your own variation. Though classic couscous can take over an hour for the granules to steam using a couscousier, quick couscous plumps and becomes tender in just minutes when combined with boiling water.

For more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at noelle.carter@latimes.com.


Total time: 40 minutes, plus cooling time

Servings: 4 to 6

Note: Adapted from Hillstone Restaurant Group

3 cups water, divided

1/2 cup couscous

1/2 cup bulgur wheat

3/4 cup coarsely chopped radishes

3 tablespoons finely cut green onions

3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

1/2 cup raisins

12 very small tomatoes, such as Sweet 100s

1/3 cup whole roasted, skin-on almonds

About ½ cup whole fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, preferably Meyer lemon, more to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a simmer. Add the couscous and cook gently until the water is absorbed, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the couscous to a baking sheet to cool.

2. In another small saucepan, bring the remaining 1 1/2 cups water to a simmer. Add the bulgur wheat and cook gently until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a baking sheet to cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine the cooled couscous and bulgur wheat. Stir in the radishes, green onions, parsley, raisins, tomatoes, almonds and mint leaves. Add the lemon juice and olive oil, stirring to coat. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper. Taste and adjust the flavorings and seasonings as desired. This makes about 4 cups salad.

Each of 6 servings: 209 calories; 6 grams protein; 34 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 7 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 cholesterol; 9 grams sugar; 206 mg sodium.

Vertical Wine Bistro's Israeli couscous

45 minutes, plus chilling time. Serves 6 to 8

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ras el hanout

1 (8.78-ounce) package Israeli couscous

Chicken or vegetable broth (typically 2 cups broth per 1 cup couscous, or as the package directs)

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 green onion, sliced thin

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro