Couscous is a grain-like form of pasta made from semolina flour, the same flour used to make pasta. It’s very common throughout the Mediterranean and North Africa. In Morocco it’s often served with dried fruits and nuts and lots of mysterious aromatic spiciness.
Yield: Serves 4 - 6
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
few cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 19 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well
1 cup couscous
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced
2 cups orange juice
1 lemon, zest and juice
a sprinkle or two sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
a handful chopped cilantro
Splash the olive oil into a small saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and spices. Sauté for a few minutes until everything is heated through and your kitchen smells fragrant.
Add the chickpeas, couscous, raisins, apricots, orange juice, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper. Bring everything to a simmer and then reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain the simmer. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and continue cooking until the couscous is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let the couscous rest for another 5 minutes or so before serving. Using a fork to help fluff up the couscous, transfer it into a serving bowl and sprinkle with the almonds and cilantro.
In Morocco couscous is normally seasoned with a pinch of ras el hanout, a unique spice blend whose name means literally “top of the shop”the spice merchant’s best. If you like, you can make your own ras el hanout by roughly combining equal parts of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, mace, turmeric and black pepper. Use 2 teaspoons in total for this recipe.
Risotto is one of the world’s great rice dishes. It’s a traditional Italian dish that must be made from rice varieties with very high starch contents. Its distinctive cooking method gently coaxes the starches out of each rice grain, giving the dish its characteristic creaminess. An exercise in patience, but the results are more than worth the effort!