Couscous is made with semolina flour and water. The dough is rolled into pellets that are then pushed through screens to create smaller pellets of a uniform size. Traditionally, couscous is steamed atop a stew in a couscoussier. The top part is called the keskas, the bottom part the tenjra. Most of us don’t have this piece of equipment as part of our batterie de cuisine, but we can improvise. Large double boilers with slotted upper compartments will work, and most colanders will fit over a large pot. Even a pasta pot with a basket insert can work; line the basket or colander with cheesecloth. Cheesecloth is necessary only if the holes are large; the steam rising from below keeps the couscous aloft in the couscoussier. (Couscous that doesn’t swell sufficiently when cooked may continue to swell in your tummy. Steaming it over boiling water helps reduce the risk of potential stomach churning.)
The master recipe here is the North African steaming method. The quick and easy variation that follows may be scorned by purists, but it works, is fast, and produces couscous that will puff up enough to prevent stomachache. Holding it over boiling water for a while after cooking will help it to puff more.
Put the couscous in a deep baking dish. Rub the couscous with the oil and pour
© 2002 Joyce Goldstein. All rights reserved.