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Couscous? It Sure Doesn't Look Jewish

May 9, 2009 | by Chef Herschel Arnow

In praise of the ever so versatile couscous.

I never heard of couscous before I came to Israel. I heard of kasha, roast potatoes with onions, kugel, but not couscous. My wife introduced me to this delicacy.

Couscous is a North African specialty. Many people think they're eating rice at first glance. It is made of durum wheat and water just like any other pasta. There are a number of ways to make couscous. I'm very spoiled. My oven is a combi-steamer. I put together coucous, oil, water, salt, pepper, and a little powdered soup mix in an uncovered baking pan. I put my oven on the steam selection and in ten minutes it's done to perfection.

Couscous can be a plain side dish waiting for a great sauce to be splashed on. It can become a main dish made with chicken or beef. It can even be eaten as a dessert with sugar and milk or cream. Enjoy and remember: "Keep it simple, sweetheart."

Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Prep: 15 minutes
Refrigerate: 4 hours

1 cup plain couscous
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil – brown oil
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into ¼ inch pieces
1/2 cup loosely packed, shredded, fresh basil leaves
1 pkg. (4 oz.) crumbled feta cheese or the likes – optional


Variations: cucumbers, parsley, mint, garbanzo beans, onion juice, garlic. Salt and pepper to taste.

Boil 1-1/2 cups water in medium saucepan. Stir in couscous; cover. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork; cool, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Stir in remaining ingredients except cheese. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.

Add cheese before serving. Serve on lettuce-lined plate or as a filling for pita bread. Makes 6 servings.

* * *

Spicy Couscous With Garlic

The Tunisian recipe is a terrific way to turn instant couscous into a zesty side dish in just a few minutes.

1-1/2 tsp. bottled hot pepper sauce, or to taste
3-4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
3 or 4 medium cloves garlic, very finely minced
1 tsp. paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup couscous


In a bowl, whisk together hot sauce, 3 tbsp. olive oil, caraway seeds, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper and 2 tbsp. water.

In a saucepan combine couscous with a pinch of salt. Shake pan to spread couscous in an even layer. Pour 1-cup boiling water evenly over couscous, cover tightly, shake pan to distribute water evenly and let stand 5 minutes.

Add sauce to couscous and mix gently. Taste, adjust seasoning and add remaining tbsp. oil if desired. Serve hot.

Makes 2 or 3 servings.

* * *

Couscous with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes

1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup water (if needed)
1 large garlic clove, minced
2-1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
1-1/2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed, each cut crosswise into 3 pieces, each piece cut into 6 wedges
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried
1-1/2 cups couscous
1-1/2 teaspoons butter or margarine
24 cherry tomatoes, halved


Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until tender and golden, adding water if dry, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Add broth. Bring mixture to boil. Add zucchini and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Mix in thyme, then couscous and butter. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand until broth is absorbed, about 10 minutes.

Fluff couscous with fork. Transfer to serving bowl. Mix in tomatoes and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

* * *

Citrus and Green Onion Couscous

6 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
3 cups couscous (about two 10-oz. packages)
1 cup chopped green onions
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

Bring broth to boil in heavy large saucepan. Stir in couscous. Reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Uncover and mix in remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to large bowl and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Please!! If you have any comment or questions, please contact me: Also, I'm always looking for recipes that are "Keep it simple, sweetheart." Can I have the recipe?


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