Watching my mother prepare the Thanksgiving stuffing the night before the big holiday, was a thing of magic. She’d cut pounds of celery and onion and then saute in melted butter. She’d break up the old stale bread, grind the sausage, measure the poultry seasoning then toss it all together in the biggest bowl I’d ever seen. She was making stuffing for an army it seemed. Sadly, I never really came to appreciate the hard work that went into that dish; I wasn’t a fan of stuffing–there’s just something icky about saturated, mushy bread. No thanks to my preferences, that stuffing disappeared into the bowels of turkeys and eventually onto my large extended family’s plates on Thanksgiving day. Everyone seemed to love it, except me.
Fortunately over time, I’ve come to appreciate the wonderful flavors of stuffing originating from fresh herbs such as sage and thyme, and now that it’s my turn to establish Thanksgiving traditions, I opt for a much simpler, healthier version of stuffing. This dish gives even the stuffing-hater a better reason to try it and to love it. First thing, I get rid of the gooey bread. I substitute whole grain couscous, either small or large pearl Israeli couscous like this one for the bread.
I add sauteed vegetables, fresh herbs (just remember the Simon and Garfield song “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”), dried fruit and sliced nuts. But I don’t bake it or stuff it into our turkey; I serve it straight from the skillet as one of our many side dishes. I love the vibrant flavors and it makes wonderful leftovers.
- Fresh Herb Couscous Stuffing
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup Israeli couscous
- 1 3/4 cup chicken broth (I use Better than Bouillon chicken base)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 1/4 cup shredded carrot
- 2 Tbsp chopped dried apricot
- 2 Tbsp chopped dried apples
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp each sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup sliced roasted almonds
- Add olive oil to medium skillet placed over medium-high heat; do not allow to smoke. Add couscous and toss gently in skillet for 1-2 minutes until lightly browned.
- Add water and bring to a boil; cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Toss with a fork. Set aside.
- Melt butter in a large skillet placed over medium high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, apricot, apple, all fresh herbs, salt and pepper; stir to combine. Cook and stir until vegetables are soft and translucent. Stir in prepared couscous.
- Arrange in serving dish. Top with sliced almonds.