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10.20.2003

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can you do the couscous? how to make real Moroccan couscous by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3
continued from page 1

how to make couscous
I learned to make couscous from Paula Wolfert's excellent Couscous and Other Good Foods from Morocco, a must-have for anyone who's interested in exploring authentic Moroccan cuisine in their own kitchen. This recipe has been adapted from that book. Once you've done it a few times, it's actually a very easy, almost meditative process.

Note: If you find you have leftover couscous and want to reheat it the next day, set a pot of water to boil, then do the final 20 minutes steaming over the water to reheat the grains. Reheat the stew separately.

ingredients
2 cups couscous
6 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
olive oil

serves 4
time a couple of hours

equipment
large casserole pan
steamer insert that fits snugly over a big pot

1 Wash and soak the grains: Dump the couscous in the large baking pan, then cover the couscous with 6 cups of water. Swish around the grains in the water with your fingers, then drain off the excess water through a wire-mesh strainer. Pour the dampened couscous back into the pan, and let it sit for 20 minutes.

2 Separating the grains: When you come back, the grains should be swelled with water. Dive in with your fingers and begin picking up the grains, rolling them between your fingers, and breaking up the big clumps. Spread out the couscous in the pan.

3 First steaming: At this point, you should either have a big pot of stew or water bubbling on the stove. Place the steamer insert over the pot, and make sure that there's a good amount of distance between the top of the liquid in the pot, and the bottom of the steamer -- we want to steam that couscous, not boil it into mush. Carefully dribble the couscous grains into the steamer, letting them fall into a mound. Don't worry if you lose a few grains through the holes -- trust me, the loss will be minimal. Steam uncovered for 5 minutes with the heat on high; after 5 minutes, lower the heat to medium and continue steaming for another 20 minutes.

4 Soak and separate the grains again: After this first steaming, return the couscous to the big flat baking pan, and spread out the grains. They'll be pretty toasty, so you'll want to do this with a wooden spoon or other implement. Drizzle 3/4 cup of cold water over the grains, along with 1/2 tsp of salt, stirring it into the couscous and gently breaking up any lumps. When the couscous is cool enough to handle, lightly oil your fingers, and work the grains with your fingers. Again, the key is to separate the grains by gently loosening the clumpy bits. Smooth out the separated grains in your pan, and let sit for another 15 minutes. If you're not planning on eating within the next 30 minutes, cover the couscous with a damp cloth until just before dinnertime. The couscous is happy to wait for a few hours in this state.

5 Final steaming: About a half an hour before you want to eat, get the stew bubbling again. Break up any clumps that have formed in the couscous by working through the grains with your fingers. Stack on the steamer, and again, gently pile the couscous grains on top. Steam for about 20 minutes, until the grains are fluffy, tender and hot.

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