Cous Cous is a “grain” that I’ve never tried before. I quote the word grain since I’ve read couscous isn’t actually a grain, but extremely tiny pasta. In fact, before I started cooking for myself and learning more about the great world of food, I didn’t even realize cous cous was a grain-like substance you could cook with. I thought couscous was the thing my great grandmother ate. Little did I know, until now as I researched it for this blog post, that what she ate was actually spelled cush cush or couche couche. My great grandmother was Cajun French, and enjoyed this dish of cornmeal cooked and mixed with milk. Though for some reason, I remember her enjoying it with coffee too. But my memory is muddled there. Maybe if my mom stops by and reads this post she’ll make a comment below to clarify anything I’m getting wrong.
Anyhow, back to the regular cous cous. In early 2008, I tried couscous with a not so great outcome. I didn’t really like it all that well. Plus, the sight of it cooked sort of grossed me out. Little white balls that made me imagine this must be what caviar is like (I’ve never had caviar before). I felt like I was eating the eggs of some fish or insect for sure.
Then I discovered, there isn’t just one type of cous cous. Apparently, the one I had picked up and tried was an Israeli form of couscous. This type of cous cous I picked up several months ago at Whole Foods looked completely different. I brought home my little bit of cous cous, placed it in a food storage container, and have looked at it in my pantry ever since.
I was afraid to mess up again, so there it sat waiting for me to grab it to use in a recipe and be fabulous. As the old cliche goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” My need for a grain the other night had me turning to couscous, and the result was beyond fabulous.
I’ve had an idea in my head for 2 months to make black bean burgers and spanish rice for my bento box. Spanish rice is something I adore every time I go to a Mexican restaurant. In fact, I like the whole slate of offerings at a Mexican restaurant: enchiladas, fajitas, burritos, chimichangas, sopapillas. There is a restaurant near work that I frequent a little too often.
I was finally ready to try my hand at my idea this past Sunday. I searched the Internet for a recipe and found one that sounded simple on Recipezaar. I began to prep my ingredients in order to take pictures as I went along. Unfortunately, I realized during prep I had no rice left in the house. I’m not quite sure how that happened, but apparently I used the last of my rice recently. I forgot to pick some more up. I couldn’t leave the house because I had something in the oven. What to do? My eyes fell up on the container of couscous in the pantry. I decided, “What the hell. Let’s give it a try.” I pulled it down from the shelf, adjusted the recipe a bit to accommodate the cooking requirements of couscous, and plunged forward. As the couscous cooked, I began to worry. Would it work? Would I like it? 10 minutes later I had my answer. It was FABULOUS. I loved the way it tasted. It was awesome. And, it took only 10 minutes of cooking time to complete. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that out of a side dish! And it only took 1 dish to cook. I did it all in my rice cooker. I was so happy I had taken pictures to share with all of you.
Spansih-spiced CousCous (modified from a Recipezaar recipe)
1 1/4 cup of cous cous
1/3 cup of plain tomato sauce (plus a bit more if you think it needs it)
3/4 cup of vegetable stock
1 tablespoon of butter or margarine
1 1/2 teaspoons of chili powder
3/4 teaspoon of oregano
1 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cp frozen corn
Grab your rice cooker’s interior pot. Make sure everything is all nice and clean (always a consideration when I’m getting ready to cook, since I don’t use the thing all that often. Sometimes I must wash out a layer of dust.
Pour in the cous cous.
Dump in all your spices.
Add your frozen corn, frozen peas,and butter (cut into smallish squares)
Add in the stock. Note: If you prefer to use chicken stock, I’m sure that would work fine. I prefer the taste of vegetable stock.
Add in the tomato sauce. Stir everything around really well and place your rice cooker’s interior pot into the rice cooker. Close the lid. My rice cooker only has a few options: steam, white rice, and brown rice. I clicked the white rice option and set a timer for 7/8 minutes. I then checked the couscous. It looked pretty good. I then fluffed it all, mixing it around with a fork. After fluffing, I left the lid open allowing the dish to steam for another 2-3 minutes. Once the couscous seemed cooked and tasted fine, I removed it all from the pot.
Deliciousness. I added a handful of shredded cheddar cheese and mixed that in at the end of the cooking time (forgot to take a picture of that!).
If you try this, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and let me know how it turned out for you!