Making the perfect couscous is kind of like doing laundry. It requires washing, drying, steaming, and sorting. Just boiling a pot of water is not going to cut it. The same way wrinkled sweat pants don’t quite compare with creased slacks, instant couscous has nothing on old-fashioned Moroccan-style couscous.
And just as dressing well takes effort, so does making the perfect couscous. But if you have the time, it is well worth the effort. You will need a small length of cheesecloth and a large pot with a steamer insert: you do not need to run out and buy a couscousiere.
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.
PREP TIME: 30 minutes
COOK TIME: 1 hour
YIELD: Serves 6
WHAT TO GRAB:
2 cups couscous
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup parsley, minced
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup carrots, diced
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
1/4 cup red onion, diced
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Start a large pot of boiling water. Make sure you have a colander that fit snugly within the pot.
WASHING THE COUSCOUS
2. Pour the couscous into a large shallow pan. Pour 6 cups of cool water into the pan, and stir the water around with your hand a few times. Using a strainer, drain the water. Return the couscous to the pan. With wet hands, pick up the couscous and rub it gently, allowing it to fall back into the pan. This will break up any lumps. Once you are finished, allow the grains to rest for about 20 minutes.
STEAMING THE COUSCOUS: PART I
3. Measure a cheese cloth so that it will fit comfortably around the colander to be used. Moisten the cheese cloth, dust it with flour, and then wrap it around the side of the colander. The cheese cloth should cover any of the holes around the side of the colander; you want the couscous to steam only from the bottom. Make sure the colander fits snugly within the stock pot.
4. Once the water is boiling, fit the colander within the pot. The colander should be well above the boiling water.
5. Slowly drop about a 1/2 cup of the couscous into the colander, allowing the grains to form a soft mound in the middle. After 5 minutes, add the remaining couscous. Lower the heat to moderate, and steam for 20 minutes. Do not cover the couscous at any point.
SEPARATING THE COUSCOUS
6. Remove the colander from the pot, and dump the couscous into the pan. Spread the couscous out, and sprinkle the grains with 1 cup of cold water and 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt. With wet hands, pick up the grains and rub them gently, allowing them to fall back into the pan – just as previously done. If the couscous feels too dry, you can add more water. Allow the grains to rest for 10 minutes.
STEAMING THE COUSCOUS: PART II
7. Place the couscous back in the colander. Steam the grains for 20 minutes.
8. Remove the colander from the pot and dump the couscous into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter.
9. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, olive oil, vinegar, curry, 1 tablespoon salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the couscous and mix well with a fork. Add the carrots, parsley, currants, almonds, scallions, and red onions, and mix well. Season to taste.
10. Serve at room temperature: either as an entree, or as the base for a Grilled Tuna Steak!