Most recipes I create start with one thing: opening up my kitchen cupboards and staring listlessly inside. Then I turn to the fridge, and after contemplating various containers of leftovers, I regroup in my mind with what I want to make, what I have and what I need to buy.
That is exactly how this recipe came about – when I set out to create an exciting dish by filling in some predetermined slots in my mind: grain: couscous, protein: chicken, sweetness: mango and crunch: sunflower seeds. The shallots (which are a mild onion) are an added bonus for more texture and flavor. Then tie it all together with a tangy citrus vinaigrette
This dish is the perfect canvas for your own changes, additions, switches and substitutions. Hate chicken breasts? Sub in chunks of turkey. No shallots in your pantry? Try scallions. Not a fan of sunflower seeds? Try slivers of almond, or pine nuts instead. You can even use quinoa, rice or wheat berries as the base. Make it your own!
Note: Toasting plays a big part in this recipe – both with the couscous and the sunflower seeds. In both cases, it elevates the ingredient to richer, nuttier heights.
Toasted Couscous with Chicken and Mango
Makes 6 to 8 main course portions
¾ cup shelled sunflower seeds
3 cups uncooked couscous
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth [or seasoned water]
3 skinless chicken breasts
2 medium shallots
1 – 2 medium mangoes
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup orange juice
½ cup lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and pepper
In a large, clean, dry skillet, toast the sunflower seeds over medium heat, tossing regularly until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.[Skip this step if your seeds are already toasted.]
In the same pan, toast the dry couscous, tossing regularly, until medium to golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Watch carefully not to burn. Add the 3 cups of broth or water and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and transfer to an extra-large mixing bowl. Add the sunflower seeds.
Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides and grill until cooked through – about 3 minutes on each side, or about 4 to 6 minutes in a George Foreman. [Feel free to cut in to it to check for doneness, you’ll be dicing it up anyway.]
Let cool slightly, then dice up and add to the couscous. Peel and dice the shallots finely, and add in, then peel and dice the mangoes and add.
Mix together all the remaining ingredients for the dressing until combined. Pour over the couscous mixture and stir to combine.
Chill at least 1 hour before serving.