Cous cous? What is it? Is it a grain or is it some kind of rice? Cous cous is actually a type of pasta that is made from semolina flour. Semolina is the hard part of the wheat grain that resisted being ground from the primitive medieval millstones. Originally, cous cous hails from North Africa, but is found and eaten all over the world today. There are many different varieties of cous cous, but here in the United States, the most popular types are either the white or the whole grain varieties. Cous cous is pasta that is shaped into tiny granules of semolina pasta that are made from two different sizes of husked and crushed unground semolina. There are a couple of theories on how the name came about. One theory is that it is a word derived from the Arabic word kaskasa, which means to pound small. Another theory is that it is derived from another Arabic word, kiskis, which is the name for the type of steamer that is used to cook cous cous. The French translation for the kiskis is couscousi. We may never know the answer to this question. What I do know is that I love cous cous. We eat it quite often, usually with a Mediterranean or Greek dish. Cous cous looks like rice, but is much healthier than rice. It contains a lot of protein, with about 6 grams per serving in the regular type and about 9 grams in the whole wheat version. It is also loaded with selenium, containing about 66% of the daily recommended amount in one serving. Cous cous also has about half the calories that rice has, making it very friendly for dieters who are trying to cutback on their caloric intake.
I was a little pressed for time last night when making dinner, so I needed something that was quick and easy. I went “Greek” and made a lemon, herb yogurt marinade for chicken, and served it alongside my lemony cous cous and a mixed baby green salad. Chardonnay was the wine choice. A crisp white was the perfect choice to accompany the meal.
Lemony Cous Cous
1 12/ cups cooked cous cous
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 red onion, diced very fine
1 1/2 TBSP garlic
1 tomato, diced fine
salt & pepper to taste
1 bunch parsley, chopped fine
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
Traditionally, cous cous is steamed in the kiskis, but I boil the water with a tsp of salt and 1 TBSP of olive oil, then I turn off the heat and add the cous cous, mix it up and let it soak up the hot water. It is almost a 1:1 ration of water to cous cous. Too little water and the cous cous will be dry and too much will make it mushy.
Once the cous cous is cooked, I added all the rest of the ingredients and combined everything well. You can eat it cold, warm or hot. It is good at whatever temperature you like it. You can easily eat it on its own or mix it with shredded chicken. It is great as both a side dish or a meal, especially when the chicken is added. If you want to make tabbouleh, the recipe is the same, except the dish is primarily parsley, with less cous cous.
A very healthy Greek meal. Lemon-herb-yogurt marinated chicken, that I grilled and topped with more of the lemon-herb-yogurt sauce, served with lemony cous cous and a salad of mixed greens and a piece of pita bread. Very little fat, and a ton of protein.