Gourmandistan

Plural couscous plus corn and oven-dried tomatoes

Double couscous with roasted corn and oven-dried tomatoes“Couscouses” seems to be an acceptable plural form for the tiny balls of semolina pasta that are a North African staple. This usage has recently become quite necessary in Gourmandistan, as we have been enjoying a variation of this Yotam Ottolenghi/Sami Tamimi salad-ish dish. Their version calls for both couscous and mograbiah, described as also being known as “pearl or giant couscous and, in North Africa, as berkukis.” The pair admit that mograbiah “is more difficult to find than ordinary couscous,” suggesting “the Sardinian equivalent, fregola” as an alternative. Gourmandistan could source neither mograbiah nor fregola near our home. Instead, we turned to two types of couscous—tiny and the larger size we’ve become accustomed to calling “Israeli” couscous.

CornOne of the reasons we were attracted to this recipe was the need to remove some farm share tomatoes from our kitchen counter. We also wondered whether roasted corn kernels would add to the “interesting combination of textures” Ottolenghi promised. They very much did.

Meze

Slow-roasting with sugar, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper turned our “salad bowl” hybrids into something sweet, chewy and delicious. The two types of couscous (we cooked the Israeli kind al dente) and roasted corn each offered their own tasty texture. Some labneh (or young goat cheese) and a few other things (once we left out the saffron threads and still thought it was fine) added their own flavors to what became one of the centerpieces of another lovely meze meal. We’re keeping our eyes open for some mograbiah or at the very least fregola in the near future. Especially when there’s corn around, this dish is a cool way to enjoy couscous—or couscouses.

DOUBLE COUSCOUS WITH ROASTED CORN AND OVEN-DRIED TOMATOES

(adapted from this recipe on Epicurious which is from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, which we own but cannot currently locate)

  • Ripe plum or salad tomatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Turbinado or demerara sugar
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Kernels from 3 ears of corn
  • ¾ c. Israeli couscous
  • 1 c. chicken or vegetable stock
  • Pinch of saffron (optional)
  • ¾ c. couscous
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Lots of chopped herbs (we used parsley and chives)
  • Labneh or young goat cheese
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 300° F.

Cut tomatoes into quarters if using a paste variety, eighths (or even smaller) if using salad tomatoes. Cut out woody pieces and discard excessive seeds. Arrange the tomato pieces, skin side down, on an oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sugar, salt and pepper. Place in the oven and bake for 1-2 hours, until the tomatoes are dried and charred in places. Check occasionally and toss, if necessary. Set aside to cool.

Sauté the onions in a skillet until they are caramelized. When almost done, add the garlic and cook until browned. Remove from heat.

Increase oven temperature to 500° F.

Toss corn kernels with some olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Roast on a lower rack in the oven, turning with a spatula occasionally, until charred. Set aside to cool.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add Israeli couscous, reduce heat, cover and simmer until al dente (about 7 minutes). Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water. Spread the couscous on a clean dishtowel and let dry.

Heat the stock and saffron in the microwave. In a pot, toast the regular couscous in some olive oil. Add the stock, stir, remove from heat and cover. After about 10 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork.

In a large bowl, mix together the couscous, the Israeli couscous, the tomatoes and their juices, the onions/garlic and their oil, the corn, the lemon juice and the herbs. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more oil and salt and pepper if needed.

When cooled to room temperature and ready to serve, add spoonfuls of labneh or goat cheese, sprinkled with sesame seeds.

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28 comments

    • Oh, thanks so much, Angelica! I find that, having largely abandoned my real camera (I do want another, however) and the hated Photoshop, I’m just enjoying playing around with my phone. It’s been freeing!

  1. Finding more than the normal kind of couscous is difficult for me too (strange considering where we live in the Middle East). Could the plural of couscous be cousci ? 🙂

  2. That sounds delicious. I did dry some tomatoes in the Aga once. The recipe I followed suggested that the small warm lower oven in an Aga would be good – it took about 2 days 🙂

  3. the duo ottolenghi-tamimi produces some serious food. I live very close to one of their cafes here in London and I must admit the food always looks fab, especially the cakes. the quality is very good too (prices to match it, of course). the books are worth having, especially Jerusalem, in my opinion their best, so far. My only complain with them is that sometimes they try too hard and use too many ingredients in a dish.
    I generally start from their books, then I go back to Roden (sometimes via Paula Wolfert)
    + I agree: your new style phone pictures looks good by the way

    • I love to look at all those cookbooks and to try things from them, but I admit there have been very few recipes I’ve repeated, possibly for the reason you state. Would be much preferable to let them cook and just pop in to a cafe!

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