Sweet Moroccan Couscous

October 29, 2009 § 1 Comment


I used to eat a box of couscous a week.  I was transfixed by the teeny pasta pebbles.  I would cook up a big pot, swirl the warm semolina balls with cheese, scallions and roasted carrots & cauliflower (coated in cumin and olive oil) and this was my lunch every single day.  Sometimes I’d vary it a little.  (I’d add mushrooms and parsley.)  Harking back, I think that couscous salad was my longest food repeat, next to my middle school Ramen noodle days.

As with all overabundant good things, couscous salad slowly petered out.  I found other good things (wheat berries!  bulgar!) that took its place.  But yesterday, while riding the bus home and flipping through the last issue of Gourmet magazine, I found reason to unearth my old box of whole wheat couscous hiding behind the oats and semolina flour.  While a great many of the November recipes sounded tantalizing (rye bread stuffing; golden onion pie; braised turnip greens with turnips and apples) a giant advertisement for cinnamon caught my eye.  I like cinnamon just as much as the next person, but on this unusually blustery, cold afternoon, there was nothing on earth that sounded more delicious than something warm and something cinnamon.  Sweatshirt cinched up around my neck, I scanned the ingredients list for this Moroccan side dish to determine what I’d tweak for my taste bud and pantry preference.  Then hopped off the bus, made a quick pit-stop to the supermarket bulk bins to buy a few more dried, unsulfured apricots and dates and rushed home to eat.  Although I varied this dish a bit from the original recipe–couscous salads are wonderfully forgiving–I stuck by the recipe’s suggestion to add dates and apricots.

A sweet couscous salad might raise a few eyebrows if you’re used to eating couscous with savory add-ins.  But let me assure you, this is delicious, naturally sweetened by the dried fruit and absolutely excellent with a few thin strips of parmesan cheese, melted in while it’s still hot.  This salad holds up terrifically for next-day leftovers, too.

1 cup whole wheat couscous, raw
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/3 cup dates, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricot, chopped
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
scant 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
several long strips of Parmesan cheese (optional, but recommended)

1/2 cup slivered almonds


1.  In a dry skillet, heat slivered almonds on medium-high heat until fragrant and toasted, approximately 5-7 minutes.  Keep close watch; they burn quickly.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

2.  In a small pot, pour 1 cup water, orange zest, dried fruit, spices and 2 tablespoons of butter.  Heat on the stove until boiling.  Turn off heat and add 1 cup of dry couscous.  Stir.  Put lid on top and let sit for five minutes.

3.   After five minutes, remove lid from pot and fluff couscous with a fork.

4.  Pour into individual bowls and top with thin slices of Parmesan cheese (you can use a squash or carrot peeler) and toasted almonds.


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