We set out to develop a lively, Moroccan-inspired couscous dish that would be perfect in the cold winter months. We thought that lamb, dried fruit, and warm spices would match nicely, so we began by braising a small amount of lamb in a fragrant wine-based broth enhanced with ginger, coriander, and cinnamon. The lamb imparted a meaty, savory flavor without becoming the star of the dish. Once the lamb was done, we used the ultraflavorful cooking liquid to hydrate the couscous. Chickpeas made the dish more substantial. Raisins provided just the right amount of sweetness without overwhelming the other flavors. Still, we were missing more brightness and depth. Since cinnamon is often paired with orange, we thought that adding strips of aromatic orange zest would lend welcome brightness and dimension. Tasters loved this version and noted that the long braising time had rendered the orange peel completely softened and delicious. To add even more textural contrast, we stirred in toasted almonds. Altogether, this was a satisfying, hearty couscous dish fit for any table.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
1½ cups couscous
1 pound lamb shoulder chops (blade or round bone), 1 to 1½ inches thick, trimmed and halved
Salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped fine
10 (2-inch) strips orange zest (1 orange)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ cup dry white wine
2½ cups chicken broth
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed
½ cup raisins
½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
⅓ cup minced fresh parsley
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add couscous and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are just beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to bowl and wipe the pot clean with paper towels.
- Pat lamb dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty pot over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown lamb, about 4 minutes per side; transfer to a plate.
- Add onion to fat left in the pot and cook over medium heat until softened about 5 minutes. Stir in orange zest, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in wine, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in broth and chickpeas and bring to boil.
- Nestle lamb into the pot along with any accumulated juices. Cover, place pot in the oven, and cook until fork slips easily in and out of lamb, about 1 hour.
- Transfer lamb to cutting board, let cool slightly, then shred into bite-size pieces using 2 forks, discarding excess fat and bones. Strain cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl. Return solids and 1½ cups cooking liquid to now-empty pot and bring to simmer over medium heat; discard remaining liquid.
- Stir in couscous and raisins. Cover, remove the pot from heat, and let sit until couscous is tender about 7 minutes. Add shredded lamb, almonds, and parsley to couscous and gently fluff with a fork to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle with extra oil. Serve.
Simple Pearl Couscous
Pearl couscous, also known as Jerusalem couscous or Israeli couscous, has a chewy texture and toasty flavor that have cemented its popularity in eastern Mediterranean and North African cuisines. We wanted a foolproof method for cooking pearl couscous to serve as a simple side dish or as the base for flavorful salads. To give the pasta as much flavor as possible, we toasted the spheres in oil to bring out their nuttiness. Once they turned golden brown, we added a measured amount of water that the pearls soaked up during cooking. This absorption method helped produce more evenly cooked results than simply boiling the couscous like regular pasta. Plus, once covered, the pot required little attention. When the water was completely absorbed, the warm couscous could be simply tossed with extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper before serving or cooled and dressed up with a bold vinaigrette plus plenty of fresh add-ins. Do not substitute regular couscous in this dish, as it requires a different cooking method and will not work in this recipe. If you’re making a salad, transfer the couscous to a rimmed baking sheet and let it cool completely, about 15 minutes.
2 cups pearl couscous
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2½ cups water
½ teaspoon salt
Heat couscous and oil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until about half of grains are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in water and salt, increase heat to high, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until water is absorbed and couscous is tender, 9 to 12 minutes. Off heat, let couscous sit, covered, for 3 minutes. Serve.
Simple Pearl Couscous with Tomatoes, Olives, and Ricotta Salata
SERVES 6 VEG
Do not substitute regular couscous in this dish, as it requires a different cooking method and will not work in this recipe. Crumbled feta cheese can be substituted for the ricotta salata.
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups pearl couscous
2½ cups water
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
12 ounces grape tomatoes, quartered
2 ounces (2 cups) baby spinach, sliced ¼ inch thick
1½ cups coarsely chopped fresh basil
3 ounces ricotta salata cheese, crumbled (¾ cup)
⅔ cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup minced fresh chives
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil and couscous in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until about half of grains are golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in water and ½ teaspoon salt, increase heat to high and bring to boil.
medium-low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until water is absorbed and couscous is tender, 9 to 12 minutes. Off heat, let couscous sit, covered, for 3 minutes. Transfer couscous to rimmed baking sheet and let cool completely, about 15 minutes.
- Whisk vinegar, mustard, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil together in a large bowl. Add couscous, tomatoes, spinach, basil, ½ cup ricotta Salata, olives, 6 tablespoons pine nuts, and chives and gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to a serving bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup ricotta Salata and remaining 2 tablespoons pine nuts and serve.