For many Americans, couscous is a bit like the mystery meat at the school cafeteria; everybody’s eaten it, but nobody really knows exactly what it is. It’s pasta, itty bitty teeny weeny pasta. Couscous is made from coarsely ground semolina and wheat flour, and is a dietary staple in North African countries like Morocco, playing the same role as rice in Asian countries.
The real deal couscous is traditionally cooked in a couscoussière, which looks like a large steamer. Veggies and meats go in the bottom pot, and the couscous goes into the perforated basket on top, to be steamed as the main dish cooks under it.
I am not ambitious enough to either own my own couscoussière or to cook the real deal stuff. I buy the instant couscous, the kind that you add to boiling water, wait 5 minutes and voilà, instant gratification. I’m all about instant gratification when I get home from work and have to feed my hungry brood. It’s a nice change from rice or pasta, and there are countless flavoring combinations, both savory and sweet, to keep you from getting bored with it.
Here is a simple recipe that is full of flavor. Serve it with grilled Moroccan Chicken Brochettes that you marinated the night before, and you have dinner on the table before the kids and/or significant others start gnawing on the furniture for sustenance.
Couscous with Raisins and Toasted Almonds
1 cup instant couscous
½ cup golden raisins
2 tbsp unsalted butter
¼ tsp turmeric
1½ cup chicken broth or stock
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted
Salt and pepper to taste
Toast the almond slivers in a dry pan over medium high heat until they just turn golden. Soak the raisins in a bowl with enough hot water to cover them. Set aside while you prepare the couscous. In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth and turmeric to a boil. Add the couscous, mix, and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork, then drain the raisins and fold them in to the couscous along with the butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.