Cooking with Couscous

Ingredient,Recipes
September 6, 2012

Technically neither a grain nor a pasta, couscous is versatile, low-maintenance, and right at home in both warm and cold dishes.

greek couscous
Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn
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Culinary chat rooms clamor with debate over whether couscous (KOOS-koos) is a grain or a pasta. Let’s resolve the foodie feud by saying that, technically, it’s neither. Traditionally, couscous was made by rolling moistened semolina (the hard cracked wheat produced by the first crushing in the milling process) in a bowl of flour. Since it isn’t made with a conventional dough, it’s not a true pasta—and the flour coating takes it past the point of being simply a grain.

Most Western couscous is pre-steamed and requires no actual cooking. Just soften in boiling water; in minutes, it’s ready to eat. Couscous is incredibly versatile. Enhance the taste by adding minced garlic, ginger and green onions and soften with hot stock rather than water. In African and Arab cuisine, couscous forms a bed for dishes that bear its name, and you can create easy, one-pot meals by stirring couscous into vegetable sautés along with juicy tomatoes or stock toward the end of cooking. It also makes satisfying cold salads, perfect for lunch boxes.
Handmade couscous was a staple of the Berber culture of North Africa, ideal for nomads because it required little in the way of implements. It could be steamed in woven twigs or reeds over a pot of stew and scooped with the fingers. If you’re a couscous lover, you may want to invest in a couscoussière, a double-boiler type pot that cooks stew in the lower pan and steams couscous in the top pan.
—By Jo Marshall, a food writer in Deephaven, Minn.
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Greek Couscous with Olives

Here’s a fresh, no-cook recipe perfect for picnics and versatile as can be. It’s the winner in Relish’s and the California Ripe Olives’ contest for the best new recipe using ripe olives.

Stuffed Red Peppers

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Couscous with Chicken Salad

Couscous and Chicken Salad

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Pesto Shrimp with Couscous

A heart-shaped parchment packet holds a healthy meal shrimp and couscous.

Israeli Couscous with Mango, Cucumber and Cilantro

Israeli Couscous with Mango and Cucumber

Sweet mangoes combine with Israeli couscous in this summery salad.

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