Come to the Table

Note: This post is in support of Near East brand's Couscous for a Cause campaign. I was already a fan of their products, but thanks to this couscous-inspired post, they're donating 250 boxes of couscous to Washington state's hunger relief agency, Northwest Harvest.

PRIZES! Comment by May 15th for a chance to win a Near East prize pack including products, recipes and another 250 boxes of couscous donated to Northwest harvest.

According to Wikipedia, couscous is a staple food throughout West Africa, Sahel, France, Spain, and the Canary Islands, Portugal, Madeira, Italy (particularly in the western Sicily Province of Trapani), as well as in Turkey, Greece, Malta, Cyprus, the Middle East and India.

Made by hand, it's a lenghty process that involves working semolina-based dough through a sieve, which forms the tiny granules of couscous. The couscous grains are then air-dried in the sun. Preparation involves steaming the tiny grains in a special pot, typically lined with a cheese cloth.

Here in the Western world, couscous is pre-steamed and dried again, which shortens the cooking time considerably--five minutes from boiling water (or stock) to fluffy couscous!

I love entertaining with couscous. When I gather friends, we serve it North African-style with a meat or vegetable stew, spooned over a heaping mound of couscous. (Near East brand's roasted garlic or parmesan are my two favorites.) Served on polished silver trays, it makes a stunning crowd-friendly presentation.

Fresh thyme and green olives are added to the couscous.

Preparing the trays for dinner.

Mounding the couscous for height....enhances the presentation.

Don't you love these trays? I'm an avid thrift store shopper and both of these trays were less than $10. Silver polish and a bit of elbow grease brought them back to life.

Layer the dish with poached artichokes, onion and lemon.

Add a light drizzle of the pan juices...

All natural lamb loin from Ninety Farms, with a beautiful Moroccan spice rub.

Strips of seared lamb crown the dish.


More ideas? Check out these recipes by
James Beard Award-winning chef, Jason Wilson:

with eggplant, zucchini, and chopped tomato

Couscous Chicken Crunch
with apple, pear, and sage

Pacific Albacore Tuna
with olive and lemon

Smoky Couscous with Cherry, Sage, and Pulled Pork
chipotle chile, balsamic, and beer make up the braising liquid for the pork, and the couscous is tossed with dried cherries and sage. Sounds lovely, no?


Photos by food photographer, Rina Jordan.