Although couscous looks like a tiny grain, it’s actually a form of pasta.
Couscous is a primary staple throughout the Maghreb, in much of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. It is also popular in the West African Sahel, in France, Spain, Madeira, in western Sicily’s Province of Trapani, as well as in Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Middle East. It is particularly popular among Jews of North African descent such as the Berber Jews, and is eaten in many other parts of the world as well.
My first couscous experience was in the traditional Moroccan style. Well, nearly traditional. My friend, Margo, is an American married to a man from Morocco and his sister taught her to make the couscous dish she prepared that night. So as far as I know, the recipe was traditional–but it wasn’t served in quite the traditional way.
In Morocco, the entire meal is put onto a giant platter and plunked down in the middle of the table (table optional, actually!). Then everyone digs in with their fingers. It is quite a sight to behold. These people literally scoop their bare fingers into the food, lick them clean and then put their fingers back in for more. Excuse my squeamish American standards of etiquette & cleanliness, but I can barely tolerate watching this spectacle and I’m not about to participate. Lucky for me, she provided our group with spoons. Have you ever tried eating a chicken leg with a spoon?
But I digress. The experience was unique and I thoroughly enjoyed it so I decided to venture out and buy couscous to incorporate into my own meals.
This one is mostly savory with a little sweet from the oranges. You can save the liquid from the oranges to pour over the top of your dish in case you find you prefer more sweetness (like I do). It may be just my particular taste, but I really enjoy the brightness that the parsley imparts.
Orange Couscous with Chicken
3/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water
3 tsp. chicken bouillon granules (or 3 cubes)
6 oz. uncooked whole-wheat couscous
12 oz. shredded cooked chicken breast
1 3/4 cups drained canned mandarin orange sections (about 2 small cans)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
In a large Dutch oven, combine orange juice, water & bouillon; bring to a boil and make sure the bouillon completely dissolves. Remove from heat; stir in the couscous. Cover, let stand 10 minutes.
Add chicken, 1 1/2 cups of the orange sections and the parsley to Dutch oven; stir to combine. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until heated through.
To serve, arrange couscous mixture in large serving bowl; garnish with the remaining 1/4 cup orange sections & a bit of parsley. Plonk it on the table and tell everyone to dig in. Or, if you prefer, divide it among six plates that are lined with an optional lettuce leaf and provide forks. I prefer the latter.
2.3 g Fat
.6 g Saturated Fat
48 mg. Cholesterol
66 mg Sodium
32.5 g Carbohydrates
2.2 g Dietary Fiber
9.1 g Sugars
22 g Protein
22% Vitamin A
78% Vitamin C
If you don’t have access to local chicken that has been raised humanely, you could always make this vegetarian by using Quorn’s Chik’n Tenders or Morningstar Farms Meal Starters Chik’n Strips (both found in the freezer section). To go completely vegetarian, sub veggie bouillon granules as well. KitchenBitch tells me there’s an awesome low-sodium vegetable bouillon called Organic Gourmet.