The party planner livens up her dinner menu with this simple, pretty side

By Suzanne Zuckerman
Updated November 14, 2012 09:00 AM
Credit: Lisa Romerein

She can pull out all the stops when it comes to producing the weddings of stars like Reese Witherspoon, Natalie Portman and Drew Barrymore, but when it comes to throwing a holiday party, Yifat Oren likes to pull out a box – of couscous.

To anchor a stylish dinner affair, the L.A. event planner prepares a vegetarian dish of couscous pilaf with roasted pistachios and cranberries.

“It couldn’t be easier to prepare,” she says. “You can put it out warm or serve it at room temperature and it’s fine.”

Like a great actress, the dish is also a chameleon – capable of taking on a variety of flavors, depending on what you add to it. “I’ll add a little cinnamon or caramelized onions or pistachios for crunch,” says Oren. “You can also add seasonal ingredients, like cranberries.” And like a great party guest, “It’s an easy thing to add into the mix. Always.”

Oren suggests serving the couscous in a stylish bowl and setting a buffet table with natural elements: lush green potted plants, white flowers and birch wood pieces. The look is “rustic chic with a touch of winter. It’s a fresh, organic approach to the holidays.”

Couscous Pilaf with Roasted Pistachios & Cranberries

Makes 6 generous servings
• 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
• 1¼ cups water
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• ½ cups chopped shallots
• 2 cups couscous
• ½ cup pistachio nuts, shelled and roasted
• ¾ cup dried cranberries
• Salt
• Pepper

1. Bring broth and water to a boil in a small saucepan.
2. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, 3 minutes. Stir in couscous.
3. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Add pistachios and cranberries, and fluff with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste.