Couscous is a grain and a staple throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The boxed, pre-steamed versions you can find in the supermarket makes it a convenience food and an alternative to rice or pasta. Serve it as a side with meat either plain or mixed with vegetables, dried fruit, and nuts.
Couscous is also the kind of dish that you can make a day ahead and keeps well at room temperature. That’s one reason why I included it in our picnic basket for Diner en Blanc a couple of weeks ago.
I wanted something that would include crisp veggies and go well with prepared grilled chicken. I found this recipe on Epicurious and particularly liked the combination of golden raisins and slivered almonds. I have to admit, though, I should have paused at “1/4 cup lemon juice.” When I stirred it together the night before the picnic and sampled it for taste, the bright citrus notes were overpowering. I was ready to toss this recipe out. But what to do with all of this couscous? I packed it anyway.
I fretted about this all the next day and actually tucked in an extra-ripe nectarine into the basket in case we needed some sweetness to temper the lemon’s sour, acid punch. But when we served up our plates at Diner en Blanc I was pleased to discover that the lemon had mellowed and relaxed into the background of flavors overnight.
So here you go. I think dried apricots would also make a nice addition to this salad.
Couscous will feed a lot of people if you serve it at a potluck or a dinner party. Or if you are making a meal for two, you’ll be eating it for days mixed into salad greens or as a side for fish, the way I did.
Moroccan couscous salad
This salad can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 10-ounce box plain couscous
1/2 cup raisins (or diced dried apricot)
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled, quartered lengthwise, thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup thinly sliced green beans or trimmed sugar snap peas
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1. Bring chicken broth, 1 tablespoon oil, ginger, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin to boil in heavy large saucepan. Stir in couscous and remove from heat.
2. Scatter raisins over, cover, and let stand until couscous softens, about 10 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork, breaking up any lumps. Transfer couscous to large bowl.
3. Add cucumber, red bell pepper, carrot, green beans, and lemon peel. Whisk remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and lemon juice in small bowl. Add to couscous; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.