Thursday, February 02, 2006

So, What is Couscous Anyway?

Couscous with Senegalese Chicken and Vegetable Stew

Yes, this is in answer to the first question posed by my first round of "Ready, Set, Cook!"

It seems that when I posted those 3 ingredients, one of them was something not too many people have heard of. I'll admit, I take it for granted that I live in an area where almost anything necessary food-wise is easily obtained, and I also have a teeny tiny edge in the food arena with my diploma but, I didn't think couscous was that obscure, hence the inclusion.

What is this couscous of which I speak? Couscous is usually said to be Moroccan but really is used equally in other countries; Algeria, Tunisia, Libya to name a few. Although couscous is a pasta, made from semolina flour like most pastas, it is treated like a grain and cooked nearly identically to rice.

The texture is different because the grains are so small and almost every dish I have seen it in is filled with vegetables or meat. It is available in most markets where you would find rice and I have seen it in the ethnic sections as well. We like it as it is made from the box, as a replacement to the usual rice, potatoes or pasta.

Traditionally couscous is made in a couscousier:

A couscoussier, also known as Couscous pot, is a traditional steaming vessel used mainly in the making Couscous.
Couscous is placed at the top pierced part and the steam from the stew being cooked at the bottom pot rises through and steams the couscous. Stews can be lamb, beef, chicken, and/or vegetables.

Sort of like a double boiler with holes in the top part so the steam can get

They range from pretty to functional:

Here are a few recipes using couscous. Don't be afraid to try it, you won't be disappointed.
Chicken and Couscous Salad with Orange Balsamic Dressing
Printable Recipe

4 boned and skinned chicken breast halves
10 oz Couscous
1/2 cup Raisins
1/4 cup Dried cherries
1/2 cup Roasted red peppers; diced
15 oz Garbanzo beans; canned,-drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Black olives; diced
1/4 cup Green onions; chopped
1/4 cup Cilantro; chopped
1 cup Fresh orange juice
3 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon Grated orange peel
1 Tablespoon Cumin

Broil chicken and cut into bite sized chunks. Set aside.

Combine orange juice, balsamic vinegar, grated orange peel and cumin in a
small bowl and set aside.

Combine couscous, raisins, and dried cherries in a large bowl and prepare
couscous according to package directions.

After couscous is cooked add the remaining ingredients and toss well.

Lamb Shanks with Apricot Couscous
Printable Recipe

4 Lamb shanks (3-4 lbs total)
1 lg Onion, finely chopped
1 Cinnamon stick (2"long)
1 1/2 ts Ground coriander
1 ts Ground ginger
1/2 ts Ground cumin
1/4 ts Ground allspice
1 1/4 c Chicken broth
1/4 c Apricot or orange muscat- dessert wine
3/4 c Coarsely chop dried apricots
1 1/2 c Couscous
Mint sprigs (optional)

Place lamb shanks in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 450 degree F oven until well browned (20-25 minutes). 

Meanwhile, in a 4 quart or larger electric slow cooker, combine onion, cinnamon stick, coriander, ginger, cumin and all spice. 
Lift lamb from baking pan and place on top of onion mixture; discard fat in pan. 
Pour broth over lamb. Cover and cook at low setting until lamb is so tender it pulls away from bones when pulled with a fork (7 1/2-9 hrs.)

Lift lamb to a warm, deep platter and keep warm. Skim and discard fat from cooking liquid; then measure liquid. You need 2 1/4 cups; if necessary, pour off some of the liquid or add enough hot water to make 2 1/4 cups. 

Return liquid to cooker and increase heat setting to high. Stir in wine and apricots, then couscous. Cover and let stand until liquid has been absorbed (about 10 more minutes.) Spoon couscous around lamb; garnish with mint, if desired.

Moroccan Couscous
Serves 6
Printable Recipe

3 1/2 pound chicken cut in 6 pieces
4 Tabkespoons butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large onion, cut into wedges
1/2  pound quartered plum tomatoes
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground 
black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 whole jalapeno chili
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
5 small, peeled, quartered turnips
4 large carrots peeled and quartered
1 large acorn squash peeled, seeded, cut into 2 inch pieces
3 small zucchini cut quartered lengthwise then crosswise
16 ounces canned garbanzo beans
2 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 cups couscous about 18 ounces
4 cups canned chicken broth

Combine chicken and broth in a large Dutch oven. Simmer until chicken is cooked through,turning occasionally, about 20 minutes.
Using tongs remove chicken from cooking liquid: reserve cooking liquid. Skin and bone chicken; cut into bite size pieces. 

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter with the oil in large heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion,sauté until tender,about 10 minutes. 
Add tomatoes and next 8 ingredients and stir 30 seconds. 
Mix in reserved cooking liquid, turnips, carrots, squash, zucchini and garbanzo beans with liquid. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are almost tender about 15 minutes. 
Uncover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. 
Add chicken pieces to sauce and cook until heated through, about 3 minutes. 
Discard jalapeno. 
Meanwhile bring 2 1/4c. Water and 1- 1/2 T butter and salt to boiling. Stir in ouscous. Remove from heat, cover and let stand 10 minutes; fluff with fork. 
Arrange couscous in center of serving platter. Drizzle couscous with 3/4 c sauce. Spoon chicken and vegetables atop couscous. Serve, passing remaining sauce separately.


Anonymous said...

Hey Anne!

Since you live in a culinary heaven, think you can mail me some Tzatziki????

Barbie :))

Truth said...

MMmmmmmm...these couscous recipes sound delicious! I wish everyone in my house was a fan, but I have 2 that are not. Oh well, you can't please all of them all of the time, so I will try them anyway. Thanks!

Michelle said...

Hooooorraaaayyy Anne on your Blog award! That is awsome!!

Mamacita (The REAL one) said...

I love to cook with couscous, but more importantly, YOU WON!!!!!

Anne won the BOB award for Best Cooking Blog! Everybody cheer, and send her roses and money at once!

Yay Anne!

dalene said...

Congrats Anne--I knew you would win!

And thanks for the couscous recipes. I spent some time in Europe as a missionary and one of the things I loved was the great ethnicity over there that allowed me to try new things. Couscous was a favorite because it was always prepared with such savory meat. I also loved an African dish called (I'm sure I am not spelling it correctly) fufu. It was eaten with the fingers and served with spicy meat as well. I would love to recreate those for my family to try.

Other favorites were tarte flambe and raclette in the Alsace region. And the Belge make the best "frites" in the world and had the best variety of breads. I could live on bread alone if I had the choices I had in Belgium.