For quick and simple side dishes, salads and even entrées, look no further than couscous! A favorite during hot weather, couscous cooks so quickly, you’ll hardly heat your kitchen. For many recipes, you simply pour boiling water over the couscous, let it sit for a few minutes and then stir to fluff. Although perfect for the novice cook, experienced chefs around the world often prepare some truly amazing, elaborate couscous dishes.
Couscous isn’t a grain but is actually tiny bits of dried pasta made from the endosperm, the starchy white part of the hard Durum wheat berry. The softer wheat semolina is called Farina and that is where cream of wheat comes from. Remember, neither farina nor couscous is the same thing as bulghur, which is cracked whole wheat.
Couscous can be made from either whole wheat or refined (white flour) wheat. The whole wheat version has nutritional advantages — similar to choosing whole wheat pasta over white pasta. The most commonly available couscous is the refined version, but you can seek out the whole wheat variety. One thing to note is that couscous contains both wheat and gluten! This is critical information for people with allergies and sensitivities.
A native of North Africa, couscous was traditionally served topped with meat or vegetables. It’s popular around the world, from Morocco to Sicily, Algerian, Tunisia and France. While Moroccan couscous is used for most dishes, you can also find Israeli couscous, which is about 2-3 times larger, about the size of a peppercorn and it takes a little longer to cook, about 10 minutes. Lebanese couscous is larger still and takes about 25 minutes to cook.
Here are some of our favorite ideas, tips and recipes for serving couscous:
- Serve couscous as you would rice. It’s great served topped with stir-fried veggies, steamed or sautéed veggies. These Sirloin and Veggie Skewers are served over hot couscous. This fabulous Rosemary and Mint Lamb Stir-fry is served over apricot-tossed couscous.
- Add favorite herbs and spices such as chives, parsley and basil. Drizzle on a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Don’t forget the garlic!
- Here is a quick and simple Grass-Fed Beef and Couscous Lettuce Wraps recipe perfect for summer.
- Add tomatoes, chickpeas or other cooked legumes. To get a little more elaborate, toss in some cooked, chopped chicken or lamb, or if you prefer, tofu or tempeh. Add olives, mint and lemon juice.
- Serving guests? Our Lamb Tagine with Dates is perfectly exotic.
- Enjoy as you would pasta or use in place of pasta in favorite recipes with added pesto, olive oil and parmesan cheese, or with marinara or meat sauce.
- Try couscous in salads. It pairs perfectly with chopped chicken, dried fruits and nuts, salad dressing, cheese and whatever you usually like. Here’s a Southwestern Couscous Salad, and here’s a Pearl Couscous Salad. And here’s an idea for Whole Wheat Couscous with Nectarines and Pistachios.
- Enjoy hot cooked couscous for breakfast. Remember you can re-hydrate couscous with any hot liquid (even wine – but probably not for breakfast). Breakfast ideas include dairy and non-dairy milk or apple juice. Be sure to add fruit, dried fruit, nuts and yogurt if you like.
Got a quick couscous idea or a favorite recipe? Let me know.