a virtuous treat: green couscous with fresh herbs, lemon zest, and garlic

Patience has never been a strong suit of mine.

As a child I was known to beg and plead for just one Christmas gift to open up early on Christmas Eve, unable to bear the anticipation and build up that inevitably resulted after those frenzied weeks of singing Christmas carols, crafting paper reindeer out of hand tracings, and mainlining hot cocoa and peppermint bark.  It wasn’t my fault, really – what six year old would possibly be able to contain themselves?

That same (totally unfounded) ‘we-might-as-well-do-it-early-if-we’re-gonna-do-it-anyway!‘ reasoning lasted throughout throughout my formative years and weaseled it’s way straight into my adult psyche.

It’s a well known fact that I have trouble sitting on a gift; it literally pains me deep inside to hold a straight face when I have an exciting surprise all wrapped up and ready to go tucked up just a few short feet away and ‘hidden’ in the top of my closet. I just get so antsy and anxious and excited to see their face as they tear away the wrapping and trimming, and at this point it’s understood that I will try and convince James he should open his birthday gift a day early – you know, just to temper all that other excitement that could be sooo overwhelming on the big day.


This impatience tends to leak out and manifest itself elsewhere in my life. Wait until the electric kettle sounds it’s bell to start pouring the water into my French Press? Pshhaww. Wait till the water is hot before jumping in the shower? Nah, I’d rather hop in early and endure some bracingly cold torture. And don’t even get me started when it comes to waiting for one stubborn pug to poop in the rain….

I’m working on it though. Patience is a virtue, as they say, and apparently I’m just not that virtuous. Or something like that.

Thankfully for the nights when I’ve got about thismuch patience for supper-making and THISMUCH desire to be instead be on the couch catching up on some reading, losing brain cells by surfing The Daily Mail’s gossip column, or tuning in to a riveting murder mystery on the ID channel (yes, I am addicted), I’ve got a few go-to patience-free side dishes, and this green couscous is one of them.

Couscous has always been a weeknight staple for me, though the way I’ve prepared it has shifted a good bit over the years. Back when we were sharing our first apartment (way back in the dark ages of 2008), I would toss a few boxes of those prepared couscous flavors in my cart every time I’d hit the market. They were inexpensive, easy to prepare, and generally complimented the simple dishes I was putting up for dinner most nights. As time wore on I realized that those little boxes were not the end-all-be-all when it came to couscous, and saw that you could buy couscous by the pound in that elusive bulk-bin aisle.

My first go with it was met with a bit of trepidation, but after quickly realizing that those little ready-to-make boxes weren’t anything special – just pre-measured amounts of couscous with a directions list printed on the back – I started to eschew the powdered flavor mixes in favor of mixing up my own. It couldn’t be easier, really – you simply add one part couscous to one and a third (or up to one and a half) parts boiling water and let the couscous steam and fluff up off the heat. By adding your own flavors, what once had a bit of a pre-fab taste and flavor became something wholly different and much more interesting.

One of my favorite ways to flavor it in the Summertime is with a mix of freshly picked herbs and a clove of garlic, whizzed together in a food processor and then stirred into some boiling water along with the dry couscous. After a whole five minute wait, the couscous is done, and ready to be seasoned with a bit of extra salt and smattering of fresh lemon zest. The whole dish is completely simple, yet makes something special when paired alongside roast chicken, a piece of grilled fish, or a simple pan fried porkchop.

It’s cooking without patience at its best, yet the taste and presentation – that pretty green color! those golden yellow flecks! – utterly belie that fact.

Green Couscous with Fresh Herbs, Lemon Zest, and Garlic
Serves 4 as a side dish

I prefer to buy my couscous from the bulk bin aisle – it is much cheaper than buying it in a box, and also more eco-friendly. Whole Foods carries both the regular and whole wheat types in their bulk bins, and if you have access to a WF the price for it usually cannot be beat.

This recipe is very simple and quick; it goes excellently with ‘saucy’ dishes, as it is a the perfect base to soak up any lovely and tasty juices.

My favorite combination of herbs is mint, cilantro, and chives, but you could also add in/substitute parsley, basil, or rosemary.

1 cup uncooked couscous
1 cup fresh herbs: a mixture of chives, mint, and cilantro
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 1/3 cups water
zest of one lemon

tools: food processor (large or mini size), and a pot with a lid

First, prepare your herb mixture. In the bowl of a food processor (I like to use a mini one for this), combine the herbs (chives, mint, and cilantro), chopped garlic, olive oil, and salt, and process until the herbs are finely chopped and you have a thick green paste. The paste can be chunky in consistency, but just make sure there are no very large pieces or strands of herbs remaining.

Heat the 1 1/3 cup water in a pot over high heat until it is boiling. Pour the dry couscous into the boiling water, and quickly stir in the herb mixture. Cover the pot, and remove it from the heat; let the couscous stand for 5-7 minutes before lifting the lid. After 5-7 minutes all of the liquid should be absorbed. Remove the lid, add in the lemon zest, and fluff the couscous with a fork.  Taste, and adjust salt level to your liking.

Serve immediately, while still piping hot.

10 responses to “a virtuous treat: green couscous with fresh herbs, lemon zest, and garlic

  1. MMM….great idea. I’ve been making a lot of chimichurri sauces lately with all the herbs. I’ll add this idea, too. Thanks!

  2. Breathtakingly beautiful pics.

  3. YUM – thanks for sharing – trying to switch up couscous and pasta dishes lately:)

  4. Just pinned this to Pinterest. Can’t wait to try!

  5. transitionscoachingcayman

    We have a lot of couscous too, usually for Saturday lunch, as it’s so quick. Lovely photos.

  6. Cannot wait to make this!! I have herbs growing like crazy and need to use them up!

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