Couscous (And So Can You!)

Pronounced koose-koose, this staple of North African cuisine is made from wheat and forms tiny, pasta-like granules that can be cooked and served like rice. Growing in popularity right here in the US, it can be found in most supermarkets in a packaged, precooked form. Aside from the fact that I want to name my first-born puppy after it, I love couscous for three main reasons:

  1. It’s fun to say (especially in an obnoxiously high-pitched voice as though you are calling a small, pocketbook-sized dog).
  2. It’s super easy to prepare (faster than boil-in-bag rice).
  3. It has a fluffy texture (not as in kitten fluffy but more like if grits and rice had a fluffy baby).

There are all kinds of the precooked couscous variety available in a supermarket near you, such as herbed chicken, roasted garlic & olive oil, toasted pine nut, wild mushroom & herb, or just plain-jane (original). You can also purchase whole wheat versions, which are packed with fiber. I used the original variety for this recipe and added my own twist of dried cranberries, shredded carrots, toasted pine nuts and little citrus vinaigrette, and BOOM! BOOM! you have a sweet and savory side dish to accompany any meat or meat-like product of your choosing. Add some steamed veggies and you have a meal fit for a reasonably minded (though this could be argued) person reaching into their late 20’s…gasp! Oh, how I do miss the milk and cookie days when I was young and dreamed of ponies. Okay, maybe I have yet to surpass those dream-evoking days, but I do know how to prepare a seemingly mature, well-balanced meal.

I actually prepared this recipe during a cooking segment for an internet how-to video although I’m not sure when or where it can be viewed. All I know is that I was ridiculously nervous and used eloquent catch phrases, such as “fork it” and “dump it.” Here is a little summary of how to prepare couscous using my own cooking segment lingo: Bring some water to a boil in a saucepan, “dump” the couscous into the water, cover, remove pan from heat, let sit for five minutes, and then finally “fork it.”

SIDENOTE: The only downside to couscous is that it can be a bit pricey. I mean, it’s pricier than say, rice, which is probably one of the cheapest goods you can buy. However, when it comes to the splurges in life, I wholeheartedly believe food should win first priority, followed by Broadway shows, concerts and traveling in no particular order. In conclusion, I love couscous and so can you!

Cranberry Carrot Couscous

Couscous:

1 (10-ounce) box original couscous

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup shredded carrots

¼ cup thinly sliced green onions

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Dressing:

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon grated orange rind

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 garlic clove, minced

  1. To prepare couscous, combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Pour 2 cups boiling water over the couscous mixture; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork; cool. Stir in cranberries, carrots, onions and pine nuts.
  2. To prepare dressing, combine orange juice and the remaining in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Pour over couscous mixture, and toss well to combine. Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 cup)
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