16 January 2013

Baby Bites: Couscous with Tilapia and Veggies

It's been a few months since I last attempted making a couscous dish for Nerd. She liked it before, but I just keep trying Italian pasta dishes instead of giving couscous a fighting chance. Why? I think it's because the traditional version is so small, it can give your toddler couscous butt. What the bib doesn't catch ends up in the high chair and stuck here:

Hey, it's better than getting tomato sauce on their pants, right?

Aside from the potential mess, couscous is such a great food! It's the fastest pasta you'll ever cook (no joke--5 minutes from turning on the heat to fully cooked). I made this recipe while Nerd ate her breakfast and played with stacking cups in her high chair. Couscous also serves as a great base for whatever floats your flavor boat. For the grown-ups around here, we love it with sautéed asparagus and red bell pepper. In this on-the-fly recipe, I go for the bright aromatics of mirepoix (yeah, I'm going French on ya today) with a mild whitefish to satisfy the body's need for omega-3s.


  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 green onion or small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup frozen sweet peas
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup uncooked, unflavored couscous (pearl couscous isn't as messy, but as you'll see by my photos, it's not what I had in my cabinets...)
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 filet tilapia or mild whitefish (NO BONES!)
  • tiny pinches of dried thyme, basil, black ground pepper, and parsley (fresh will work, too, but it's currently winter and they're not growing in our garden...and I hate paying for them in the grocery store...)
Boil the water in a pot and add the couscous. I always cut the heat and remove the pot from the eye as soon as I add the couscous. It doesn't really need to "cook", just soak up all the water. If you find it on the dry side, add more water or even a little bit of flavored broth.

Heat half of the oil in a small skillet on medium/medium high and add the chopped fresh veggies. Allow to sauté to release their aromatics, and then add the frozen peas. The veggies should cook until they are soft enough for your baby's bite. (Note: Toddlers will be able to handle chopped veggies. If your baby is younger than 12 months, you always have the option of putting them in the blender after removing them from the heat.)

This combo of veggies is great for any season.
Add the veggies to the cooked couscous. Using the same skillet for the veggies, pour in the remaining olive oil and throw on the tilapia filet. Cook it through, maybe 2-3 minutes on each side. Flake it with a fork (I did this on my cutting board) and mix in with the veggies and couscous. Stir in the dried herbs. Serve warm.

A little golden oil left from sautéing the vegetables will give the fish a beautiful color.

Aaaaannnnnddddd LUNCH!

Store up to 3 days in the fridge. I'm a little unsure about freezer storage (I just made this today, so we'll see if couscous stands up to the challenge). We've never had leftover couscous before, and making this recipe obviously planned for several meals for Nerd. Here's to hoping it can live on ice.

Nerd thoroughly enjoyed this meal at lunch today. For every pea she saw in her bowl, she excitedly exclaimed, "Ball!" and either shoved it in her mouth or smushed it with her thumb. Lunch and a show for this mom. Taste-wise? Nerd believes that this meal was worth getting couscous butt. ;)

  • Other combos your toddler may like atop their bed of couscous: asparagus, red bell pepper, and garlic; carrot, edamame, and leeks; chickpeas, cucumber, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese; shredded chicken, roasted tomatoes, and Parmesan.
  • Try using pearl couscous for a food that's easier for toddler fingers to grab if they like eating off of their tray. Each "piece" of pearl couscous is larger and therefore easier to get on a fork or spoon.


A. Hab. said...

I find your adventurous nature in the kitchen so inspiring, Vik. Truly. I want to be better in the kitchen and have been experimenting with recipes I've never tried before (and often using ingredients I have zero experience with). I also have noticed that I'm a bit shy when introducing Mel to new foods--I think I'm afraid she'll choke, but she has definitely shown interest in table foods. I would love to give this couscous a shot. I LOVE couscous. It's one of my favorite pastas. I've honestly never thought of serving it as a toddler food before! I'm going to give it a try soon. :) Just have to get my courage up. ;)

V-Dub said...

Thanks, A. Hab! This has definitely been a process, many years in the making. I remember thinking that I'd never be much of a cook, much less a food enthusiast for my own child. So after all the years of trial and error, I find it deeply gratifying when I can take a pile of raw ingredients and turn it into something palatable. I just hope Nerd appreciates my efforts as she grows. I don't want her to see her childhood food memories as a rotation of Mommy's "safe" recipes. I want to keep her on her toes, making her excited to try new cuisines and get her cooking at a much earlier age than when I started learning.
As for the choking fear, I can understand since we (as first-time mommies) can fear just about anything. But our kiddos are meant to eat table foods, and we get to be the ones to introduce it to them! I've got your back, girl. You are going to rock some recipes for little Mel. :)


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