“Ahhh, couscous — the food so nice, they named it twice.”
–Dale Denton (played by Seth Rogan), Pineapple Express
After spending a blissful afternoon in the garden and a lingering lunch on the patio at my favorite local grill, I swept into the house only to remember that, in an hour or so, I needed a dish for the the humanities division pot luck. I was so relaxed that the thought of losing my beautiful day buzz by heading out to the store made me shudder. So I turned to my pantry to see what I could do with what I had on hand. I embellished a traditional recipe, and came up with a side dish that took very little time to make and very little time to disappear at the party.
Cinnamon Infused with Pearl Couscous with Mint and Almonds
makes 8 Side Dish Servings
Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
8 ounces pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous)
3 1/2 Tbls. butter, divided
3/4 cup raw almonds, rough chopped
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1 large 3″ piece of cinnamon bark
1 fresh bay leaf
zest and juice from 1/2 of a Meyer lemon (you may want more if you love lemon)
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley (flat leaf preferred)
chiffonade of fresh mint leaves (about 1 1/2 Tbls.)
1/2 cup golden raisins
ground black pepper to taste
One Pan Cooking
Melt 1 and a half tablespoons of butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add almonds and stir until golden. Remove from pan and transfer the buttery almonds to a medium-sized bowl. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the same pan. Add onions and garlic. Sauté with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until the onions are tender and starting to carmelize. Add the couscous, bay leaf, and cinnamon. Continue stirring to infuse the cinnamon and bay flavors. Continue until the couscous is golden. Add broth and 1/2 tsp of salt. Bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender. This takes about 8 minutes. Just as the couscous is ready, stir in the lemon juice and cook for another 30 seconds. Then remove from the heat and transfer to the bowl of prepared almonds. Stir in the raisins, parsley, and lemon zest. Season with more salt and ground black pepper to taste. Keep the cinnamon bark and bay leaf in the grain as long as possible to impart more flavor. This is great warm or cold.
While the couscous is cooking, keep a very close eye on the pan. If the liquid is absorbed before the couscous is tender, you may need to add a bit more broth or water. I use an electric skillet that runs a bit hot, so for this recipe I stood by with my wooden spoon and did a bit of stirring to keep the grain from sticking and burning.