|Couscous with chick peas, red pepper, onion, kalamata olives, peas, and fresh goat cheese|
Yet, I don't think of couscous as something that requires a particular recipe. And so, this post isn't a recipe post. What goes into my couscous often boils down to either what I have or what I'm craving. It is doubtful that I have ever made the same exact couscous dish more than one or two times. There are some combos of veggies, cheese, and beans that I turn to, but even those always get tweeked. However, there are some principles, guidelines, and tricks that bring the simple food to a whole new level.
In fact, I am way more likely to underestimate how much stuff I can add, especially if I haven't made it in a while. When we cook with pasta, noodles, or even rice, there is only so much surface area available to us. Because of this, we must be careful about the stuff to pasta/noodle/rice ratio, or else we risk throwing off the flavor and texture of the dish (in my opinion). I hate it when there aren't enough noodles for the veggies in my food.
But in my experience, not having enough couscous for the veggies is nearly impossible. Everything gets wrapped in a happy hug of carbohydrate, and that is because the granules are so small that the available surface area goes through the roof. I actually recommend that you overload couscous. Go nuts. You get better flavor, texture, more nutrients, AND you end up doubling or even tripling the volume of the overall dish.
Couscous is one of those things that does best when there's a lot going. The ingredients shouldn't compete, but variety is your friend here. As a rule of thumb, try to include at least four components not counting any cheese or garlic you might add. For example, you could make a couscous with onion, spinach, olives, and pine nuts. Tada! Four ingredients! Onion and spinach are often (but not always) present in my couscous, so the last few things are a toss up.
Pretty colors are awesome in couscous!! This ties in to the variety factor. You do want to eat your veggies, right? Well, veggies are colorful. Yellow, red, and orange peppers. Bright green spinach. Beautiful black beans. Red onion. Purpley kalamata olives. Endless possibilities, y'all.
4. Cheese and dairy, dude
I think this is something that people often either neglect or half-ass. They toss in some feta, because they figure that couscous is supposed to have feta, and call it a day. Not that I'm a feta-hater or anything, but there's so much more you can do. The way I manipulate cheese and dairy in couscous is very key to what makes mine so bitchin. Fresh goat cheese is magical. It's like all the bestest, most wonderful things of feta and cream cheese combined. When it's added to still-warm couscous, it behaves kind of funny. Not only does some of it stays in chunks, but some of it also coats the granules and veggies, almost like a sauce. It's amazing.
Another neat trick is to add a couple tablespoons of greek yogurt or sour cream. It's just enough to give everything a light coat and add a slight tang, but not so much that your couscous turns gloppy.
Sliced fresh mozzarella and grated, firm cheeses (parmesan, asiago, etc) are great, too. Just don't limit yourself to only feta.
5. Something a little quirky
This can be in flavor or in texture. You want one or two ingredients to stick out just ever-so-slightly more than the rest. You're striving for a "pleasantly surprised" sensation. I often achieve this with something crunchy, like nuts. Pine nuts are pretty standard, but you could use almond slivers or chopped cashews or whatever. Other times I like to add in a funky flavor, usually from olives. But you could use capers or maybe even anchovies if you are feeling braving. Go easy with whatever ingredient(s) you choose for the quirkiness, as you do not want to overpower the whole dish.
6. Garlic and crushed red pepper are awesome. Nuff said.
7. Always add olive oil (or butter) to the cooking water for the couscous. Gives flavor and prevents stickage.
|Porkchop loves flavor, hates stickage.|
That's about all I've got, but it should be enough for a bitchin dinner.