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Couscous: A Treat from the Cradle of Civilization
Flavors effortlessly seep into piles of fluffy couscous, a versatile food easily mistaken for grains or seeds. Learn to correctly classify this mysterious Mediterranean staple.
In Western diets, red or white wheat, ground into a fine flour, makes up many of the staple dishes, from sliced bread to pancakes. For centuries, though, cooks in the Mediterranean have used a different byproduct of durum wheat—a coarse powder known as semolina—to make the tiny, golden beads known as couscous. Lighting up the plate with its golden color and hearty, almost rice-like consistency, couscous stands as a glowing reminder of just how complex a plant wheat actually is.
This more adventurous staple—healthier than the other members of the pasta family, to which it shares many similarities—is integral to the culinary traditions of Morocco, France, and Greece. Though many recipes abound, Aleksandra Crapanzano of the Wall Street Journal shared all the subtle, vital ingredients of a Moroccan feast: lamb or chicken; several seasonal vegetables; and—most importantly—a blend of hand-picked spices to lend the couscous aroma and depth. Of course, couscous can adapt to a variety of flavors and styles, from sweet autumnal medleys of white beans and summer squash to a hearty Mediterranean stew of chickpeas, spinach, and mint.