Instant couscous takes shortcut to tradition Timely transition: This tiny pasta, the national dish of Morocco, goes from the box to the table in just a few minutes.

April 28, 1996|By EATING WELL United Feature Syndicate

When it comes to speed, it doesn't get any better than instant couscous. Actually a form of pasta, couscous is made from golden semolina flour, mixed with water and rolled into tiny grains.

Traditional couscous requires a long period of steaming and repeated sprinkling with fresh water and rolling between the palms to break up the clumps that form. But even in Morocco, where it is the national dish, cooks often opt for the instant version, which is what Americans find on their supermarket shelves. Instant couscous is precooked, requiring only five minutes of steeping in a hot liquid for most recipes. Whole-wheat couscous is becoming more common; if it's not at your supermarket, check a health-food store.

Golden couscous with currants

Makes 5 cups

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon olive oil, preferably extra-virgin

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 1/3 cups plain couscous

1/2 cup currants

1/2 cup chopped scallions

In a saucepan, bring lemon juice, oil, salt, turmeric and 2 cups water to a boil. Stir in couscous and currants. Remove from the heat and cover. Let stand until the water has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. With a fork, fluff the couscous and stir in scallions. Season with salt to taste.

Serving suggestion: Serve this with honey-mustard chicken.

245 calories per cup; 7 grams protein, 4 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 48 grams carbohydrate; 219 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol.

Couscous with mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes

Makes 6 cups

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped (1 cup)

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil), snipped into strips

2 cups sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

2 1/2 cups defatted reduced-sodium chicken broth

dash of hot sauce, or more to taste

1 1/2 cups plain couscous

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and tomatoes and stir until the onions are softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and thyme and stir until the mushrooms give off their liquid and begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and hot sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in couscous. Remove from the heat and cover. Let stand until the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. With a fork, fluff the couscous and stir in parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

L Serving suggestion: Serve this with grilled pork tenderloin.

230 calories per cup; 9 grams protein, 3 grams fat (0 grams saturated fat), 44 grams carbohydrate; 37 mg sodium; 0 mg cholesterol.

Couscous tabbouleh

Makes 8 cups

1 1/2 cups whole-wheat couscous

2 teaspoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups packed fresh parsley leaves

1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves

4 scallions, coarsely chopped

2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (2 ounces), optional

1. In a large bowl, combine couscous, oil, salt and pepper. Pour 2 cups boiling water over the couscous and cover. Let stand until the water has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Let cool completely.

2. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, chop parsley, mint and scallions. Add them to the couscous, along with tomatoes and lemon juice. Toss to blend. Gently stir in feta, if using. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Nutrition note: Whole-wheat couscous is packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.

Serving suggestion: Fill pita bread with tabbouleh for sandwiches.

125 calories per cup; 5 grams protein, 1 gram fat (0 grams saturated fat), 25 grams carbohydrate; 110 milligrams sodium; 0 milligrams cholesterol.

Pub Date: 4/28/96

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