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Couscous – this is a good thing

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Couscous, a very good thing... delicious and oh so easy to make, however if you want it to be edible... don’t follow the usual recipe.

Couscous is that delectable with a uniquely seductive texture that is a staple of many North African cuisines. Most likely originally a Berber dish, it is found throughout Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libia, and the people of those regions have taken it with them wherever they immigrated so it is fast becoming a staple in West Africa, France, Madeira Island Sicily and many parts of the Middle East.

One of the first mentions of Couscous is in a the 13th century North African “Kitāb al-tabǐkh fǐ al-Maghrib wa'l-Andalus.”

It is sad that in this country this delightful dish is all too often turned into an inedible, gluey muck because people follow the directions printed on most packaging. YOU DO NOT COOK Couscous.

To make perfect, light and fluffy Couscous, put:

1 measure, (be it a cup or a bushel) into a bowl and add
1 ½ measures of boiling water
place a plate over the bowl and allow to steam for about 15 minutes, then fluff with a fork and it’s ready to use.

I usually use chicken stock instead of water. If you are a vegetarian try using court bouillon, (vegetable stock) either homemade or commercial. Some people add butter or olive oil. I find it’s just as nice without it and I don’t need the calories. I also mince fresh parsley or mint or chives, or a combination there of an add when I fluff it.

Now that you have your perfect Couscous, what are you going to do with it? Traditionally in the regions of it’s origin, it is served with a meat or vegetable stew poured over it. I usually use it as a vehicle for serving an assortment of beautiful fresh, lightly steamed veggies. The veggies may include steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets, green beans, zucchini, carrots or slices of sweet potato, peppers, just about anything. I pile the Couscous in the center of a serving plate, then place the veggies in piles around the Couscous. Then I pour a sauce over it.

What kind of sauce. Well, I make a traditional chunky tomato based red sauce with LOTS of garlic, and is just a tad sweet and sour and hot, (chilies). Then I take some of that sauce, put it in a pan, add a bit of curry, and A LOT more fresh hot chilies, cook until the chilies are tender, then put it in the blender and purée it.

After pouring the chunky sauce over the serving plate of Couscous and veggies, I scatter some canned garbanzo beans and olives and capers over the top and sprinkle it with finely chopped green onions and minced fresh mint. I serve the hotter than hell sauce in a small dish on the side so people can add it to taste. This is an excellent dish to serve for a rather large dinner. It can easily be made to serve 10 or 12 people. You can add chunks of lamb or chicken along with the veggies, but it really isn’t at all necessary. This is a vegetarian (well, vegetarian if you don’t use chicken stock) that is satisfying even for dedicated carnivores.

You might also like to try this simple dish of Couscous and Mushrooms

Incidentally, Couscous is not a grain in spite of how it looks. It’s a pasta, being made from a paste made of Semolina wheat flour.

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You may read more of me at The Questing Feast

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