Couscous is like a hybrid between rice and pasta. From a far, they look like tiny grains of rice but with the complexion and texture of pasta. Couscous is made from semolina wheat where it is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets. Preparing couscous is quite simple. Instant couscous is much like rice where you boil the grains in water, except for a much shorter time. A cup of couscous will cook in approximately 3-5 minutes. Regular couscous is prepared by steaming the grains two to three times in order to get the light and fluffy consistency. If you ask me, the instant variety is just like the regular kind so save yourself the trouble and go for the instant couscous.
My first encounter with couscous was about 10 years ago when my sister G served this with some grilled vegetable ratatouille. I was reintroduced to these grains once again during a visit to Egypt where this locally ubiquitous crop was usually served with a beef or vegetable stew. Couscous can also be served plain, or drizzled with a little bit of olive oil but I particularly enjoy it when mixed with fresh herbs such as parsley or basil. It can also make for a wonderful summer salad when mixed with fresh vegetables such as cucumbers, onions, zucchini and tomatoes.
I was going through my cookbooks looking for a couscous recipe when I found one of my old cooking magazines, Everyday Food (published by Martha Stewart). In it was an appropriately refreshing and tasty dish that would serve as my Tuesday brunch.
Couscous Stuffed Peppers
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 medium onion
• 2 garlic cloves
• 12 oz. fresh chicken or turkey sausage, removed from casing (I didn’t have this so I substituted it with chorizo)
• 1 can diced tomatoes
• ¾ cup couscous
• 4 red bell peppers
• ½ c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (I used Parmesan and mozzarella cheese)
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, ½ tsp. salt and 1/8 tsp. pepper; cook until softened, about 3 minutes.
Add sausage to skillet. Cook until browned, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes and 1 cup water; cook until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in couscous.
Fill pepper halves wit couscous mixture. Pour ½ cup water into a large baking dish; arrange stuffed peppers in dish. Cover with foil and bake until peppers are tender, 35-40 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle with cheese. Return to oven and bake uncovered, 10 minutes.
I ate this dish by itself and enjoyed it very much. With half the pepper, I was quite satisfied and not too full. I imagine that this would be a great side dish too. You could just omit the sausage and serve another type of protein like baked salmon. That sounds good, too. Now, what’s for dinner?