Do you ever get tired of having rice, potatoes or pasta as your side dish? Why not try couscous? The "rice" of North Africa, couscous is used in many delicious dishes and prepared in a variety of ways. Most refer to it as Moroccan, but it is equally a staple in Lebanese, Libyan, Algerian and Tunisian cuisines, among others. While often associated with the grain family, it's actually a coarse semolina pasta.
Couscous is so versatile you can flavor it with fruit, vegetables, seafood, meat, herbs, spices or a combination of any of these. Think of succulent turmeric stewed lamb; currents, mint and pistachios; herbs, almonds and preserved lemons. Makes me want to ride a camel to a tented oasis in the desert at sunset, have my hands washed in tepid rose petal water and eat sweet, earthy, aromatic delights with my fingers. Heavenly! (Though maybe I could leave the camel there and take a cab back? Somehow bouncing around with a full belly on a camel ruins the whole romantic Lawrence of Arabia thing).
To go with our chicken tagine last night I made couscous with red pepper, almonds, Italian parsley and preserved lemons. For about 3-4 side servings:
1 large red pepper, julienned
1/4 C toasted sliced almonds
1 small preserved lemon, sliced thin then in half
1/2 C Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon zest for garnish
Sauté red pepper in a small amount of olive oil until soft. Add 1 cup chicken broth and bring to a boil. To keep the couscous moist, add 1 small pat of butter or a quick drizzle of olive oil to the stock. Add almonds, preserved lemons, couscous and stir. Turn off heat and cover for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, tossing in parsley. Garnish with fresh lemon zest.
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