Take it easy – with couscous

  • By Melanie Munk / Herald Features Editor
  • Saturday, July 10, 2004 9:00pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

I’ve rediscovered couscous. The news is good: It’s not the tasteless hippie choke grain that I remember.

I don’t know what the heck we were doing in the old days, but I have vague recollections of raw garlic and stickery parsley. And handfuls of mint. But wait, that was tabbouleh.

I would still get tabbouleh and couscous mixed up if I hadn’t edified myself. I’ll save you the trouble:

Couscous is semolina, a durum wheat product not to be confused with corn semolina, which is a corn product.

Couscous is made from coarse semolina. Pasta is made from more finely ground semolina.

Tabbouleh is made from bulgur wheat, which people think is cracked wheat or cracked wheat berries. But it’s not. It’s wheat kernels that have been steamed, then crushed.

Now you know, and you can intelligently select which wheat product you want to toss with olive oil, lemon juice, raisins, flat-leaf parsley, feta cheese, diced bell peppers and onion, or combinations of your choice.

I, myself, have been leaning toward couscous.

You boil water, pour in some couscous, cover, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in some chopped items. Dinner in 10 minutes, with leftovers.

If you don’t want to buy plain couscous and add your own seasonings, you can buy packaged brands that have seasoning packets.

You can even buy frozen couscous salad at Trader Joe’s. I tried a bag, thinking it was a hot dish, and was flummoxed by the lack of directions: “Let thaw 6 hours in refrigerator.”

“Then what?” I wondered.

Then pour it in a bowl and eat it.

I slaved over two-difficult-to-open bags for the Fourth of July, and it was a big hit.

But if you want to actually do the work yourself, try this chicken couscous salad. It’s, well, inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine, as evidenced by the raisins, I guess.

The dressing is sort of what you might call Mediterranean ranch.

You can leave out anything you don’t like, even the arugula, but that’s what gives it some zip.

It certainly isn’t authentic anything. Just good. And easy.

Rediscover couscous for yourself.

Features editor Melanie Munk: 425-339-3430 or munk@heraldnet.com.

1cup packed fresh basil leaves, plus extra for garnish

1cup mayonnaise

1/2medium sweet onion, cut in chunks

1cup buttermilk

1tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

110-ounce package plain couscous

1/3cup crumbled feta cheese

1/3cup golden raisins

1/3cup pine nuts or pepitas

3cups coarsely chopped arugula

2cups seeded and diced plum tomatoes (5 or 6 tomatoes)

2cups frozen corn kernels, or corn kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn

1tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

4grilled chicken breasts, sliced

To make dressing: Blend basil leaves, mayonnaise and onion in blender or food processor until smooth. Gradually blend in buttermilk and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Chicken should be at room temperature.

Prepare couscous according to package directions and allowed to cool.

When couscous is cool, gently stir in cheese, raisins, pine nuts, arugula, tomatoes, corn and lemon zest.

Spoon salad onto 6 salad plates as a bed for the chicken. Evenly distribute slices of chicken over each plate. Garnish each plate with a sprig of whole basil leaves.

Or spoon the couscous salad onto a platter and arrange the chicken slices on top. Garnish the platter with basil leaves.

Pass the dressing at the table.

Note: Chicken can be diced and tossed in the salad with the rest of the ingredients, and the salad can be dressed before being taken to the table.

Chicken couscous dinner salad (6 servings)

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Life

Elle Marie in Smokey Point. (Photo provided by Acacia Delzer, Director of Operations at Elle Marie Hair Studio).
The best hair salon in Snohomish County

You voted, we tallied. Here are the results.

For more than a thousand years, Czech leaders – from kings and emperors to Nazis, communists, and presidents – have ruled from Prague Castle, regally perched on a hill above the Vltava River. Dominic Arizona Bonuccelli
Rick Steves’ Europe: History lives in Prague and its hilltop castle

It’s one of Europe’s best-preserved cities, having been spared from last century’s bombs.

Alarm clock in the middle of the night insomnia or dreaming
Trouble sleeping? Try these tips for getting a good night’s rest

Many adults turn to sleep aids, including alcohol, to help them rest, without realizing that their hectic lifestyles may be contributing to their sleeplessness.

The Stumbling Fiddler Band is scheduled to perform March 3 in Everett. (Photo provided by Port Gardner Bay Music Society)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Get ready for St. Patrick’s Day with music by the Stumbling Fiddler Band in Everett.

I was charged an extra $250 for a mistaken car rental upgrade

When Leah Page picks up her rental car from Thrifty, it charges her a $250 upgrade fee. Can it do this without her permission, and how can she get a refund?

Over 200 years, the magic lantern transformed into an educational peacock

Regarded as magic in the 1650s, this device was refined into the more scientific sounding sciopticon by the mid-1800s.

Market for sale plants. Many plants in pots
Snohomish Garden Club plans annual plant sale

The event is scheduled for April 27 at Swan’s Trail Farms. Proceeds will go to scholarships.

Start planting now so you can stop to smell your own roses all summer long

Late winter to early spring is perfect for planting roses. And with so many varieties to consider, there’s no time to waste.

The 2024 Mazda3 hatchback. (Mazda)
2024 Mazda3 adds a Carbon Turbo trim and more safety features

The charismatic compact is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback.

Cousins Penny Leslie and Sidney Baker work together on a mural inside a jail cell at the Mukilteo Police Department on Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Mukilteo, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
No more staring at blank canvas in Mukilteo police holding cells

Bright murals now adorn the walls. The artwork is intended to calm and relax detainees.

A heart shaped hand tossed pepperoni pizza, left, and eight-corner Detroit style veggie pizza, right, from Jet’s Pizza on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, at the Everett Herald newsroom in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Detroit-original Jet’s Pizza lands in WA with thick-crust pies and more

The national chain’s Lynnwood joint is the first in the state. The pizza is tasty — hot or cold. And it makes good date food.

The future of fashion: Moving toward a sustainable wardrobe

Over 22 billion pounds of textiles are thrown away each year in the U.S. How do we tackle such a massive problem? Start small.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.