Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Black bean couscous salad

For dinner Saturday night, Mom wanted to make her friend Marcia's black bean and couscous salad. The ingredients call for packaged couscous, but I scoffed and said, "We can get couscous in bulk much more cheaply." Which we did.

Thus I landed myself in hot water. When we got to cooking, the recipe said "cook couscous according to package directions."

Um. Hello, Google? Can you help?

So that is how I came to spend a couple of hours Saturday preparing couscous the traditional way. Soak, then drain the couscous. Spread them in a flat pan. Let them sit. Break up the clumps with your fingers. Drizzle the couscous into a steamer you've rigged up so that steam can only escape through the couscous. Steam uncovered for 20 minutes. REPEAT. And REPEAT again. Some people steam the couscous for as few as two times or up to five times. I did three.

If you have only ever made couscous from a box, this method will be a revelation for you. I confess I have never really liked couscous that much. It just seemed heavy and grainy. But this stuff was light and fluffy and perfect for the bean salad.

It wasn't all that hard, or even labor-intensive. Most of the time the couscous was soaking or steaming away without supervision. So I would say it's worth the effort, as long as you have a couple of hours when you're going to be around anyway.
To make the salad (which we doubled), you'll need:
  • 10 oz. couscous (if you buy the packaged kind, the olive oil and garlic flavor is recommended)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice, or a combo thereof
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • dash of cayenne
  • pepper and salt
  • 1 cup chopped green onions (about 8 onions)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper (1 1/4 cup chopped)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (baby white is good), rinsed briefly to soften, then drained
  • 2 15-oz. cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
Prepare the couscous the traditional way or according to package directions. Mix all your other ingredients in, adding the beans last so they don't break apart. Serve at room temp or while still warm.

If you refrigerate this salad, you may want to add another squeeze of citrus juice and some fresh cilantro the next day to perk it up again. But it's still quite yummy on day two, day three and day four. (Yes, we made too much of it!)


  1. This couscous salad sounds good! The couscous looks so big.

  2. Thanks! Yes, it is the larger size of couscous, and it gets quite a bit bigger when you steam it.

  3. I make couscous all the time and you definitely don't have to do all that work. It's equal parts liquid and couscous. For the couscous salad I make (with chickpeas, kalamata olives, parsley, lemon zest, juice, and olive oil) I just use water and some salt - if I was making "plain" couscous I might use veggie broth for more flavor. Bring the liquid to a boil, pour it over the couscous, give it a swirl, cover, and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Fluff it with a fork and you're done.
    I'm not using quick, or instant, or anything that comes in a package with a flavor pack or anything - it's just Moroccan-style couscous in a big container. I'm told Israeli-style couscous is really good too (and maybe requires all the steaming?) but my grocery store only carries the Moroccan.

  4. Thanks, Wendi! Yeah, I saw the "quick and easy" instructions in a couple of places, but so many others suggested that the traditional steaming results in a much nicer dish, so I went ahead and tried that. It does have nice texture!