Friday, April 27, 2012

Dressed Up Couscous You'll Love

Although I hate to admit it, I've become a plagiarist. Let me explain. I've been busy with school--yes, school for a grandma of seven. I enrolled in a Master Sock Knitters Class and while I've been knitting socks for many years, they were always the plain, vanilla ones. It came to me that since I enjoy a challenge, I'd like to learn to knit those lovely patterned socks I see in so many knitting books. This is the reason I have begun stealing recipes from others. Read on. It will all make sense in a minute.

As I knit the current assignment, I watch the cooking channel on television. And I see all kinds of recipes that could be veganized with little trouble. This past week I saw Ina Garten make a couscous dish that looked like something I'd enjoy eating. So I began changing it.

Now let me tell you that I have NEVER been a couscous fan. I find it tasteless and boring. That's why I've never really cooked it. It is labeled as a "pasta" and although I've always been a pasta-holic, this tiny grain or seed or whatever it is tastes nothing like pasta. At least not to me. The package directions say to put the raw couscous into a pot of boiling water, turn off the heat, cover the pot and in a few minutes, you'll have a great pot of couscous.


Ina cooked her couscous in chicken stock. Now that sounded better already. Then she added sliced shallots, turned off the heat and in a few minutes, had a pot full of fluffy couscous. Then she tossed in a whole bunch of currents,which I love. Then she topped the dish with toasted nuts. Do I have to tell you I was intrigued to the point of making the dish for supper and serving it as a side? Great success all around. Let me tell you how I changed a few things to make the recipe vegan. Try it and let me know what you think. And while the following recipe is not Ina's original, it is altered to make it a vegan treat. The two guests I served it to rolled their eyes and called it delicious.


2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. vegan margarine
3/4 cup diced green onions, both white and green parts
3 cups No-Chicken or Vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 cups couscous
1/2 cups toasted nuts
1/2 cup dried currents
2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley

Melt the oil and margarine in a saucepan. Add the green onions and cook on medium till they are somewhat translucent. Add the No-Chicken broth or vegetable stock if you can't find the former and bring it to a good boil. Remove the pot from the heat. Stir in the couscous (I use organic couscous, but use what you have). Give the pot a stir. Cover the pan and ignore it for at least 10 minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork, gently separating the grains. Using a spoon makes a clumpy mess. Use a fork and be gentle. You want the grains to be separate, like a great pot of rice would be.

Now add the currents and toasted nuts. Fluff again. Top with the chopped parsley. Serve hot.

How To Toast Nuts

I keep all my fresh nuts in the freezer so they won't go rancid before I finish using them. If you've had nuts go bad, you know what I'm talking about. And since nuts are pricey, I do all I can to keep them edible. Toasting them is easy. Put the allotted amount in a dry skillet, turn the heat on medium, give the pan a shake now and then and let your nose be your guide. When you begin to smell them, they are done. Allow to cool enough to handle and then chop them to the desired size. You can also put the nuts on a dry sheet pan and roast them in the oven. It's been my experience that I tend to forget them and they burn. Hence the skillet method for me.

If you've never toasted the nuts before using them, do this taste test. Eat an untoasted nut and then a toasted one. Your palate will immediately note the difference and you'll be a fan of using toasted nuts in everything, from couscous to cakes to cookies and all recipes in between. The taste test is what convinced me.

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