Couscous is very simple to make: if you buy one of those Near East boxes, it’s as simple as bring the requisite amount of water to a boil, adding the couscous, covering the pot, turning off the heat, and fluffling it with a fork five minutes later. I change things around, since the last thing I want is some boring couscous for dinner. Try this with a tagine recipe, or even as an accompaniment to tonight’s veggies.
I’ll admit that I’m not such a couscous fan. When I was 15, my summer camp took us on a five-day hiking trip through the Berkshire mountains. We carried everything with us on our backs: water, tents and poles, food for five days, clothing, etc. Breakfast was PB&J or granola bars, since they were light; dinner, five days in a row, was couscous; and lunch every day was … you guessed it: leftover couscous. I guess 10 nearly-consecutive meals of just couscous did the trick. These days, I tend to stick with rice.
Sometimes, though, I make tagine. Tagine is a moroccan stew in which, traditionally, the meat and/or vegetables are slow-cooked in a large shallow clay bowl with a tall conical top. Tagine is traditionally served atop couscous, so in a pinch, I do have a go-to couscous recipe, which I’ll share here.
Moroccan Couscous (corrections appended)
1 box couscous
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup dried raisins
1/2 cup orange juice, substituted for 1/2 cup of the water called for in the recipe.
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. star anise (optional)
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger (optional)
1/2 tsp. turmeric
a dash of olive oil
(If you don’t have any of these ingredients, it’s fine to go without. For example, the batch pictured above was made without anise, turmeric or cloves.)
For the fruit:
Bring 1/2 cup water to a boil. When it reaches a boil, pour it over the dried apricots and raisins in a small bowl. Allow this to sit for at least 15 minutes; this will reconstitute your fruit, making them plump and juicy. When 15 minutes have passed, do not spill out the water! Use it as part of the cooking liquid for the couscous.
For the couscous:
Bring two cups of liquid to a boil. I usually use 1/2 cup orange juice, and occasionally 1/2 cup white wine, and the rest either water or broth. Add all the other spices and ingredients to the pot as the liquid heats. When the liquid is boiling, add 2 cups of couscous. stir quickly, cover the pot, and turn off the heat. Let the couscous steam for 5 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork.
Add the dried apricots and raisins, and toss. Serve with almost anything.