Couscous with Tomato, Chickpeas and Pine Nuts
A perfect side to go with lamb, fish or chicken
- Servings: 4 to 6.
I think I love couscous because I pretend it's a grain, telling myself I'm really not eating pasta, which of course it is. I also love how its bland flavor makes it an adaptable side dish that can take any variety of additions as well as absorbing the flavor of whatever you serve it with.
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (or you can use olive oil or a butter/oil combo)
- 1 1/2 cups couscous
- 2 1/4 cups chicken stock (don't use bouillon but instead either home-made or good boxed stock); have the stock be hot or warm
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/3 cup pine nuts (also known as pignoli)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 16 oz. can chick peas, rinsed and drained
- Ground black pepper
- Melt the butter (or heat the oil) over medium heat in a medium 3 to 4 quart saucepan that has a cover.
- When the butter is melted, or oil is hot, add the couscous and with a wooden spoon, stir to coat. Keeping the heat at medium low, continue to stir the couscous so that it almost toasts. You don't want it to brown but you'll hear the grains get drier as you stir it. This only takes about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the stock all at once and and then the salt. Give it a quick stir with a fork.
- Turn off the heat and cover the pan. The liquid will be fully absorbed in 5 to 7 minutes.
- While the couscous sits, place a small, dry fry pan on a medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the pine nuts. Let the pine nuts toast, shaking the pan every few moments. Keep an eye on the pine nuts because they can burn easily. Your goal is a golden brown and usually this color is reached right when you begin to smell them cooking.
- Once lightly toasted, immediately remove the pine nuts from the heat because the heat from the pan will keep them cooking and they can still easily burn (and they're expensive so you don't want to ruin a batch).
- Returning to the couscous, when the liquid is entirely absorbed, use a fork to fluff the grains. Transfer the couscous to a large serving bowl and add the pine nuts, chick peas and sliced tomatoes. Toss to combine.
- Taste and check for salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Most couscous sold in our markets has already been pre-steamed and dried which is why it takes only five minutes to become soft and fluffy. If it hadn't been, we'd need steamers and the time to cook these grains of wheat two or three times to get them tender.
You can use plain couscous sold in a box (the Near East brand is very good). But if you're going to make couscous regularly, buy it in bulk from an organic market for pennies in comparison to the price per box.