This couscous takes me back to a farmer’s market that I used to frequent for lunch.
At that time, the company that I worked for had offices on a main street in a suburban shopping area. There was a great little farmer’s market that my coworkers and I would walk down to at lunchtime to grab something to eat. I loved being in a location where you didn’t need to get into a car to run a quick errand. The walk itself was a nice break, but then heading into the market and feeling the energy of the lunch crowd as we traveled by the individual merchants easily transported me from general workday stress to foodie bliss.
There was one little booth in the back of the market run by a French woman. She had the most delicious Moroccan couscous; it became one of my favorite things to buy at the market. I would pick up a little container of that and one of her grilled meat or veggie offerings and I had myself a tasty little lunch.
This couscous is based on that delicious memory. It starts with browned butter which adds a nice nutty layer of flavor to the couscous. Then, just add broth, a little seasoning, and bring to a boil before you add the couscous. Isn’t couscous a miraculous thing? I love that you can bring your liquid to a boil, add your couscous, turn off the heat and walk away. No worry of burning or overcooking. Ten minutes later, it’s ready for you to fluff with a fork and eat as is, or add more flavors.
We’re going to add more flavors. So instead of walking away, you’re going to do some toasting and charring. If you have a toaster oven, you have the secret to never burning toasted nuts again, and I’ve had my fair share of burning them. I put the nuts on a foil lined tray and toast on the lowest setting. When it’s finished, I check it and if it’s not toasted yet, I put it in for another round, repeating until I get my desired toast level. When you just begin to smell the toasted nut aroma and they have a hint of color, you’re ready. If you don’t have a toaster oven, you can do it stove top in a dry saute pan, shaking or stirring and watching very carefully until they are toasted. Don’t ever walk away from that pan. Nuts can go from done to burnt in a heartbeat.
Charring the shallots also adds some great flavor. I cut them into wide slices, separated the layers, tossed with some olive oil, salt and pepper then they went back into my trusty toaster oven until they were a bit tender and had some nice charring on the edges. Deeelicious!
This couscous makes a great side dish and is wonderful served with a salad, grilled vegetables or your choice of protein. For us, it makes a lovely bed for one of our favorite main dishes, which I’ll be sharing with you tomorrow.
We’re heading back to Morocco for that recipe and you’ll definitely want to make the trip.
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups chicken broth I used low sodium
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 3/4 cup dried couscous I used whole wheat
- 2 Tablespoons chopped dried sweet cherries
- 1/4 cup pine nuts toasted
- 4 shallots peeled and thick sliced
- olive oil
Place butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Heat until butter begins to bubble and froth a bit, whisking constantly. As soon as you see brown bits starting to form on the bottom of the pan, remove from heat and add your chicken broth, salt and pepper. If you don't use a low sodium chicken broth, you might not need any additional salt. So, season to taste and stir.
Put the pan back on the burner, raise the heat and bring the broth to a boil.
Take the pan off the heat, add the couscous, stir and cover. Set aside for 10 minutes. If you want to plump up your cherries, add them with the couscous. Otherwise you can add them at the end.
While you're waiting for the couscous to finish, toss the sliced shallots with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a 450 degree F oven for maybe 5-7 minutes, until they are slightly tender and the edges have begun to char. I did this in my toaster oven so it went pretty quickly. In a large oven, it might take longer. Keep a watchful eye. You don't want these to burn, just char.
When the couscous has had it's 10 minutes to set up, fluff with a fork and stir in the cherries (if you haven't already added them) the pine nuts and the shallots. Serve.
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa
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