I make couscous all the time, whenever I want a break from rice or pasta, or when I just need something that cooks super quick with minimal attention. I know there is a proper way that it is prepared in its native lands, involving multiple steamings in a basket over boiling water, followed by breaking up with your fingers and steaming some more. I’m sure this is fantastic but I’ve always contented myself with the quick “package directions” version where you simply add the couscous to boiling water, turn off the heat, cover, wait 5 minutes and fluff. It isn’t bad but it isn’t all that fluffy or delicious either.
Joyce Goldstein’s wonderful book Saffron Shores (about the foods of the Jewish diaspora in the southern Mediterranean) just showed me a much better way. Hardly any more work than the quickie version. The trick is that you pour the boiling water over the couscous in a low flat casserole so that the weight of the grains and water doesn’t keep it from expanding. I was blown away at how much fluffier and tastier the results are. I’ll never do it in the pot again.
Vegetarian and Vegan
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 3 cups couscous
- 4 1/2 cups boiling water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Add the salt and oil to boiling water. Spread couscous evenly in the bottom of a large casserole so that it is in as thin a layer as possible. Add the water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Wait until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes), then fluff with a fork. Enjoy! Below is a picture of it topped with a simple spicy chickpea stew with cauliflower, potatoes, and leeks.
For a delicious and simple couscous salad recipe, make the the couscous as described above. Let it cool, then toss it with canned chickpeas, finely chopped green onions, fresh mint, olive oil, and sea salt. Other nice additions are raisins, pine nuts, feta cheese, olives, and flat leaf parsley.