In less than 20 minutes, Parmesan and Pine Nut Couscous comes together to make the most delicious side dish. It tastes like high end dining, but in the comfort of your own home!
I’m adding to my collection of side dishes here at Lord Byron’s Kitchen. It was a goal that I set for myself for this year. It’s one of the things I struggle with the most. How many times do I ask myself the same question over and over again: “What can I make to go with this?”
Based on feedback from many of you, Dear Readers, it seems to be a very common question among most of us home cooks. It’s easy to prepare chicken, fish, pork, beef, etc. But, what do we serve with it?
My goal is to increase my side dishes section in hopes that I’ll make your side dish dilemma less of a challenge and more of a joy. I’ve already published a few couscous recipes, but this particular recipe had to be posted. It’s pretty much as easy as boiling water!
My Basic Rule when Cooking with few Ingredients:
I live by this rule in the kitchen, and I think you should too. If I’m preparing a recipe that uses very few ingredients, I want those ingredients to be the best I can find and/or afford. And, in this particular recipe, there are two ingredients that I think are important to pay attention to.
The first is the parmesan cheese. There’s a whole cup of parmesan cheese in this recipe. Some of you might be tempted to use a lesser quality parmesan cheese, but if you have a better parmesan on hand or if you can afford to buy “real” parmesan, I encourage you to do so.
I’m most certainly not a pretentious la-dee-da cook, but there are a few ingredients I will spend some extra money on. Parmesan cheese is one of them! I have that canned parmesan in my fridge. It’s probably not even real cheese, but I love it and will use it generously as a topping on pasta whenever I can.
When cooking with parmesan though, I will use a good wedge of aged cheese. I will buy it whole and do the work myself. I cut off the rind and save it for later use. I cut the parmesan into chunks and place it in my food processor. Then, I pulse the cheese until I get the consistency that works best for me.
By buying a wedge of parmesan, I can be assured that I’m getting all cheese and no filler. (I love the stuff in the cans, but who knows what the hell is in there!)
The second important ingredient is the pine nuts. I do realize that both pine nuts and a parmesan wedge can be rather expensive, so let’s talk about alternatives.
Substitutions for Pine Nuts
I use pine nuts often in my recipes, so I will buy a large bag at Costco. The bag costs about $40, but it will last a long time. Pay attention to the expiry date before you purchase and buy one that expires in a year or two from now.
Once you open the package of pine nuts, avoid placing your hand in the bag. Carefully pour out the amount you need. To keep the pine nuts fresh and from spoiling, the less contamination the better! Seal the bag and keep the bag in your fridge. It will last for months!
If you want to use a substitute, I would recommend slivered almonds, chopped hazel nuts, or even macadamia. The taste might be slightly different, but you want to mimic the texture of the pine nuts.
And, of course, to get the most out of the pine nuts or whatever nut you decide to use, we are going to toast them first. The flavour intensifies greatly when you toast them.
Parmesan Cheese Alternatives:
I know a wedge of parmesan – even a small one – can be anywhere from 12 to 20 dollars. So, you can use other cheeses that will save you a few bucks. My go-to cheese if I can’t get good parmesan is pecorino romano. It has a very similar taste and texture.
I have another option that’s a little outside the box, but don’t knock it until you try it! Have you heard of nutritional yeast? It’s quite good and is an ingredient many vegans will use as a parmesan alternative.
Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast commonly used as an ingredient in creamy, dairy-free cheese substitutes. You can often find it used as a topping for foods like my Doritos Cool Ranch Popcorn.
I’ve also used it in my Homemade Ranch Seasoning, which is great stirred into buttermilk to make a salad dressing. Or into sour cream for a very tasty ranch dip! I’ve also used it in this Garlic Bread recipe. Honestly, Dear Reader, it’s delicious!
Okay, Dear Reader, I think I’ve talked about parmesan and pine nuts enough! Let’s get to the recipe!
Parmesan and Pine Nut Couscous
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 cup instant couscous (heaping cup)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
- 1 cup parmesan cheese
- In a large sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, over medium-high heat, add the water, olive oil, salt, and ground black pepper. Bring to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling, add in the couscous. Stir to combine. Place a lid on the pan and turn off the heat.
- Allow couscous to steam for 12 minutes. Do not lift the lid!
- Once done, remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Toss in pine nuts and the parmesan. Toss together.
- Garnish with finely chopped parsley, if you desire, and serve immediately.