Lately I’m on a couscous and quinoa kick. Something about a hearty, nubby, healthy semolina/grain seems so right in January (really anytime but just go with me), when everything has a post-holiday pall about it.
I also love how fast these two cook—for the quinoa it’s either a flash in the rice cooker or just 15 minutes simmering with some water or broth on the stove, maybe adding some aromatics like bay leaf, peppercorns, or herbs; for the couscous it’s just about boiling some water or chicken or vegetable broth, adding the couscous, taking off the heat, cover, and let steam for 10 minutes or so until all of the liquid is absorbed and you can fluff it up.
As for what to mix in that is the fun part—The other day I made a pot of couscous with some chicken broth I had made and then froze over the holidays, I also added a teaspoon of turmeric to the broth while it boiled before adding the couscous. I then sauteed some chopped kale in olive oil with a couple of crushed garlic cloves and a few red chili pepper flakes, then sprinkled it with lemon juice and fleur de sel. I put this over the couscous, topped with goat cheese (toasted sunflower seeds would have been nice also) and drizzled it all again with some olive oil. If I had any leftover roasted chicken or salmon that would have gone on top too.
The grains have a spectacular way of absorbing the ingredients they mingle with which makes it truly a one-dish meal. And it’s particularly suited to winter no? Roasted parsnips, sauteed greens, steamed celeriac…all find a home in a big bowl of grains. Just remember to season well, add herbs when you have them, and it’s always good to finish with a little olive oil (walnut oil is delicious too), lemon juice, and some toasted nuts or seeds. Now I sound like I’m describing a fancy meal for a squirrel. But really, it’s hearty and satisfying even for a person.