Our friends Wayne and Sondra introduced us to couscous many years ago on a snowy winter evening at the cabin. Instead of peeling potatoes to accompany the fish poaching in her electric “salmon skillet,” Sondra brought some chicken broth to boiling and stirred in a cup of what I thought was a kind of rice. In a few minutes I was eating couscous with Lake Superior salmon. I have been hooked ever since.
Couscous is a North African variety of pasta. Like spaghetti or noodles, couscous is made of semolina flour that is shaped into little pellets about the size of sesame seeds. Today you can buy couscous in most supermarkets. It is precooked and takes only a few minutes to prepare for serving. Properly made, it is a wonderful fluffy source of starch.
A few years ago my sister Barbara gave me a copy of the Wisconsin Herb Cookbook, by Suzanne Breckenridge & Marjorie Snyder. I try always to make at least one recipe promptly from any gift cookbook, and the couscous salad recipe caught my eye.
It is a wonderful summer salad, makes a satisfying lunch by itself and uses up some of the zucchini that keeps showing up on your doorstep.
4 c. chicken broth
7 T vegetable or olive oil
1 /4 tsp. each turmeric, ground allspice, ground cloves, ground ginger
2 cup couscous
1/2 cup currants or golden raisins
1/2 cup dried apricots, in tiny dice
2 cups zucchini, unpeeled, core removed and chopped
1-1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
3 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/2 tsp. salt (or to taste)
3 T each minced fresh chives and fresh mint
2 tsp. honey
1 /2 cup toasted slivered almonds
Bring the broth, four tablespoons of oil and spices to a boil. Add the couscous and boil over moderate heat two minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Add currants and apricots. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Chill.
Break up the couscous until each grain is separate and add the rest of the ingredients including the remaining oil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Chill four hours and taste before serving. If the salad is too dry, add more oil and lemon juice. Garnish with toasted almonds.
NOTES: Couscous tastes a bit like cereal and is especially good with salmon and meats cooked on the grill. Try it with steak, shrimp or chicken. Made with broth, all it needs is some salt and pepper, though you can experiment with additions including minced garlic, mint, hot sauce or grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.
There are many more good recipes in Wisconsin Herb Cookbook. If you collect cookbooks, it will be a fine addition to your library.