Three-Minute Couscous


Fluffy, delicious and ridiculously fast (couscous is already cooked; we merely rehydrate it), spice this couscous any way you wish. To go with the lemon-honey chicken, I like some traditional Moroccan spices.

May the deity of Moroccan cooking, Paula Wolfert, forgive me for violating tradition, but steaming couscous for 3 minutes in a microwave, instead of 45 minutes over simmering liquid, makes it doable for anyone at any time.

Turn this into a vegan main dish (and a complete protein) by adding a 25-ounce can of chickpeas (rinsed and drained) to the couscous before cooking.

Cook to Cook: The fluffiest couscous comes from letting it sit partially covered 20 minutes after cooking. If time doesn't allow, just use it after a five-minute rest. Organic whole-wheat couscous is my preference, but use any type you like. Stock up and store it in the fridge.

  • 2 cups whole-wheat or regular couscous
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons each salt, dried basil, and sweet Hungarian or Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon each ground cumin seed and ground cinnamon
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3-1/2 cups cool water
  • 3 loosely packed tablespoons fresh coriander leaves or mint leaves

1. In a microwave-proof container (I use a large, shallow rectangular plastic container with a lid), combine the couscous, seasonings and water, stirring to blend. Lightly cover and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Let rest in the oven about 5 minutes.

2. A twenty-minute rest outside the oven with the lid nearly off will dry out the couscous and make it fluffier. Just before serving, fold in the coriander or mint leaves.

Work Night Encores

Wednesday Night Couscous Salad: For every 2 cups of leftover couscous, add 1 small cut-up apple, 5 thin-sliced scallions; 1 to 2 cups chopped, cooked or raw vegetables (carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, broccoli, diced cabbage, etc.), and about 1 cup diced tofu, or cooked meat or poultry. Dress the salad with a puree of fresh coriander or basil and some scallions, yogurt, olive oil, vinegar and garlic.

Spicy Couscous Soup: Simmer together two cans of vegetable or chicken broth, 2 cups each water, pureed tomatoes, chopped tart greens (spinach, curly endive, escarole or others) and a minced medium onion for 15 minutes.

Puree together 4 garlic cloves and a 2-inch piece of peeled, fresh ginger with 1 seeded jalapeño chile. Add to the pot with 3 cups of leftover Three-Minute Couscous. Cook another 5 to 10 minutes. When flavors are blended, serve the soup hot with toasted pita wedges.

Cook time: 
Serves 8 to 10
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