Couscous may as well go down in history as the easiest, quickest side dish ever. It's impossible to mess up! It's actually little pearls of semolina, so it tastes to me like a cross between, say, farro and pasta, with a fraction of the prep time. It's quite straight forward, but that's what I like about it. Easily transformed by various other flavors and ingredients, it's a great, versatile staple to keep in your cupboard for last minute meal help. This is a springtime variation that's good on its own for the meat-indifferent, or as an accompaniment to grilled chicken, fish, or lamb.
Warm lemon and Parmesan couscous with peas
Yields about 8 side servings
½ T or so olive oil (just enough to saute garlic)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2½ cups chicken stock (or vegetable)
2 cups couscous
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Juice of a whole lemon
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
½ cup or more finely grated good Parmesan, plus a little extra for topping at the end
½ tsp or so fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper
A few tablespoons finely chopped parsley
In a medium sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium low heat. Saute garlic for a couple of minutes, stirring to keep from burning, until fragrant. Here, you should follow the cooking directions on your couscous package, but I will tell you what I do and you can adjust accordingly. Pour in chicken stock and bring a boil. Stir in 4 T of butter. Add in couscous, remove from heat, and cover for 5 minutes. While you wait, make the dressing by whisking or shaking together olive oil and lemon juice. Set aside. When couscous is done, uncover and fluff with a fork. Dispose of garlic cloves. Transfer couscous to a large bowl or serving dish, and mix in peas. Stir in grated Parmesan. Pour dressing over couscous and fluff again to distribute. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve (right away is best, but cover to keep warm) with extra grated Parmesan on top. Note: this can certainly be eaten as leftovers, but I never love couscous as much the next day without reinvigorating it with new dressing. It seems to soak up and lose much of its flavor as it sits, so keep that in mind.