Posts Tagged couscous

Crazy Couscous Cakes

You know you’re having a lazy Monday when you look for inspiration on the back of boxes in your pantry. I happened to have a box of couscous mix on my shelf—specifically a mango salsa couscous mix from Marrakesh Express (yeah, it’s a Hormel brand… sue me). I know, mango salsa and couscous isn’t exactly the flavor pairing I would have chosen, either. But, it was part of a set of six boxes I bought at Costco, so I was kind of stuck with it. And, it’s great with shrimp! (at least that’s what the front of the box shouted at me in annoying pseudo cursive font).

The back of the box had what sounded like a great meatless Monday recipe. And, besides the box of couscous, I had the ingredients on hand… so, why not? After I finished descrambling the ridiculous font (Seriously, why would a company use a lowercase j look like an upside down question mark? If I were any older or crankier, I’d be might peeved off.), I got down to business with this might fast recipe.

Southwest Couscous Cakes

  • 1 (6.1 oz) box of Marrakesh Express Mango Salsa CousCous (you know, the one I was holding in my hand reading the recipe from)
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (11 oz) can corn, drained
  • 1 (4.25 oz) jar diced green chilies, drained
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2-3 T all-purpose flour
  • 3 T olive oil, divided
  • Salsa and sour cream for serving

Prepare couscous according to package directions. Stir in next six ingredients. In large skillet, over medium-high heat, in 1 T oil, spoon couscous mixture (¼ C at a time) and gently press into a circle using the back of the spoon.

Cook 1½-2 minutes per side until lightly browned and crisp. Repeat twice with remaining couscous mixture. Serve with salsa and sour cream, if desired.


While nice in theory, poor in execution. The flavors are all there, and taste great combined, but I was thwarted by the cake-i-fying of this recipe. Here I present the only three cakes that actually came out looking like cakes.

Couscous Cakes

I was going to serve them over lettuce as a bit of a salad topper, but they just did not hold up to the frying. No matter how little or long I let them fry, they crumbled upon flipping. (I even tried a two-spatula method… no luck). Plus, on the gross side of my thought train: The black beans reminded me a little too much of rabbit turds.

But, this recipe isn’t a complete loss. If you kept this as a salad (so omit the eggs, flour and olive oil from the recipe), it would make a great side to fish or veggie tacos. Or, if you love carbs like I love carbs, just throw the salad on top of our tacos.


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Real Simple: Week Three

I’m back with another week of Real Simple delights. Yup, that’s sarcasm. If you don’t believe me, read Week One and Week Two. There were a few dishes worth eating, and one entire meal that I’d probably make again.

But, all in all, another dismal week… only one more to go! This week will also go down as the week of meat mess-ups.

Monday: Lamb Chops with Braised Escarole and Chickpeas

  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 small head escarole, leaves torn (about 13 C)
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • ¼ C dry white wine
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 15.5-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 8 small rib or loin lamb chops (1 inch thick; about 2¾ lbs total)
  • ½ t dried oregano

Heat 2 T of the oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the escarole, garlic, wine, ½ t salt, and ¼ t pepper and cook, covered, tossing occasionally, until very tender, 8-10 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook until warmed through, 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 T of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the lamb with the oregano and ¼ t each salt and pepper. In two batches, cook the lamb, 2-3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Serve with the escarole.


Now, for the first meat mess-up: I asked for eight loin chops, and I received only four. (I was wondering why my package was so light.) But what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in taste. The lamb chops were fabulous. But, it’s not difficult when you’re dealing with meat that costs $17.99 a pound (on sale). High quality meat with a bit of oregano and olive oil is good no matter what you serve with it. But, the braised escarole was a nice accompaniment.

Lamb chops with escarole

So, not exactly what I usually serve on a Monday night, but easy enough. And, even though they run on the pricey side, lambs are small so their ribs and loins are tiny. This meal isn’t going to send your grocery bill over budget.

Tuesday: Pork Tenderloin with Red Cabbage and Applesauce

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 pork tenderloins (about 1½ lbs total)
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • ½ small head red cabbage, thinly sliced (about 6 C)
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • ¼ C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 C applesauce

Heat oven to 450°. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Season the pork with ¼ t each salt and pepper and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, 8-10 minutes.

Add the cabbage and ½ t salt to the skillet with the pork and toss to coat. Transfer to oven and cook until the pork is cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Remove the pork and let rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Add the vinegar and parsley to the cabbage and toss to combine. Serve with the pork and applesauce.


And, meat mess-up number two: This time it was completely my fault. Apparently, I have yet to learn to read. I bought two pork tenderloins at about a 1½ each. So, now I have a pork tenderloin in my freezer.

Pork loin with cabbage and apple sauce

The pork is just kind of eh. Take a look… white meat cooked with salt and pepper (not even a stray herb like Monday’s recipe). The cabbage is like raw cole slaw. It could have stood to marinate a bit. And, well, applesauce as a side is pretty much what I feed Mr. Moo at lunch. So, that made me feel like I was back in short pants. (I can talk like it’s 1910 if I want to… I’m cranky… I’m practically starving over here after three weeks of this crap.)

And, I’m officially over applesauce and pork. The end.

Wednesday: Spicy Orange Chicken with Cucumber Couscous

  • 1 C couscous
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 4 6-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • ½ English cucumber, chopped
  • ¼ C chopped dried cherries
  • ¼ C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • ¼ C orange marmalade
  • 2 T fresh orange juice
  • ¼ t crushed red pepper

Cook the couscous according to the package directions. Spread on a plate and let cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 T of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with ¼ t each salt and black pepper and cook until cooked through, 6-8 minutes per side.

Transfer the couscous to a medium bowl and gently toss with the cucumber, cherries, parsley, vinegar, 2 T of the remaining oil, and ¼ t each salt and black pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together the marmalade, orange juice, crushed red pepper, the remaining tablespoon of oil, and ¼ t salt. Serve the chicken with the couscous salad and drizzle with the marmalade sauce.


This shouldn’t be called spicy, but rather sweet… overly sweet. I’m not a fan of marmalade (thank the good Lord that now I have a jar of it in my fridge) so maybe that’s why I wasn’t a fan of this recipe. Mr. Moo loved it. After all, it had his favorite fruit (dried cherries) and his favorite carb (couscous).

Orange chicken with couscous

I’ll skip this one.

Thursday: Shrimp and Pineapple Tacos with Black Bean Salad

  • 1 15.5-ounce can black beans, rinsed
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 4 T olive oil
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 lb frozen peeled and deveined large shrimp, thawed (The picture in the magazine had them with tails on… that’s silly… take the tails off for easier eating.)
  • ½ medium pineapple—peeled, cored, and cut into 1½-inch chunks (about 4 C… I just bought a pre-peeled and cored one… a bit more money, but a lot less stressful come dinnertime.)
  • ½ t ground cumin
  • ¼ t cayenne pepper
  • 8 6″ corn tortillas, warmed
  • Cut-up avocado, salsa verde, cilantro, and hot sauce, for serving

Soak 8 small wooden skewers in water for at least 10 minutes. (I have metal skewers. You need to use oven mitts to turn them, but they’re not as wasteful.) Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the beans, scallions, lime juice, 2 T of the oil, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper.

Heat broiler. Thread the shrimp and pineapple onto the skewers and place on a foil-lined large broiler-proof baking sheet. Rub with the remaining 2 T of oil and season with the cumin, cayenne, ½ t salt, and ¼ t black pepper.

Broil the skewers until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 3-4 minutes per side. Serve with the tortillas, avocado, salsa verde (I only had salsa of the red variety so that’s what we used.), cilantro, and hot sauce and the bean salad.


This was the winner of the week and is definitely on my list of recipes to make again. Corn tortillas are a must as they lend a nice texture to the taco. Fortunately, I live near a Chicago-famous tortilla manufacturer—El Milagro. I typically don’t like to recommend brands, but if you don’t make your own, these guys make a great “homemade” tortilla.

Shrimp and pineapple taco with bean salad

Anyway, the combo of cumin and cayenne with the sweetness of the pineapple under the broiler was pretty darn tasty. Mr. Moo approved of the bean salad, but picked all the scallions out before eating each bean individually.

Friday: Rigatoni with Roasted Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts

  • ¾ lb rigatoni or some other short pasta
  • ½ medium head cauliflower (about 1 lb), cut into florets
  • 8 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved (quartered if large)
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into ½” wedges
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 4 T olive oil
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 oz grated pecorino (about ½ C), plus more for serving

Heat oven to 450°. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 C of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

Meanwhile, on two large rimmed baking sheets (I was fine with just one half sheet pan.), toss the cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and onion with the thyme, 2 T of the oil, and ½ t each salt and pepper. Roast, tossing the vegetables once and rotating the sheets halfway through, until golden brown and tender, 15-20 minutes.

Add the vegetables, pecorino, ½ C of the reserved cooking water, and the remaining 2 T of oil to the pasta and toss to combine (add more cooking water if the pasta seems dry). Serve sprinkled with additional pecorino.


And, we’re back to bland. Admittedly, I completely forgot the onion… but I’m not sure it would have mattered. There’s no sauce to speak of… just cooking water. Also, as previously noted, roasted cauliflower stinks up the joint. Not a great way to end the week, but I have such low expectations at this point.

Rigatoni with roasted vegetables

I also amended the recipe a bit. I wasn’t sure what two sprigs of thyme would do just hanging out in my roasted veggie mix, so I chopped a bit up AND threw in the two sprigs. Didn’t even really taste the thyme.

Yes, I’m a glutton for punishment. But, next week will be my final week on what has now become known as the Month Real Simple Tortured My Family. Read Week Four of my Real Simple challenge.

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My Baby Loves the Berber

Almost every night, Mr. Moo has been requesting couscous for dinner. I think he likes saying the word couscous over and over again more than the actual dish. Especially, when I overhear him chattering to his toy car, “No, blue car, couscous stop. Couscous go.” Oh, to know what goes on in his wee little brain. But, I imagine a world filled with couscous stop lights and noodle roads. I would love to live on Mr. Moo’s planet.

Well, who am I to deny such a wonderfully imaginative little man? But, I am getting a bit sick of plain couscous. Fortunately, I have the Cook’s Encyclopedia of Vegetarian Cooking which has a perfectly easy recipe that jazzes up my son’s new favorite carb.

Couscous Salad

Serves 4

  • 3 T olive oil
  • 5 scallions, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1½ C vegetable stock
  • 1 C couscous
  • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • ¼ C chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ C chopped fresh mint
  • 1 fresh green chile, seeded and finely chopped (I used jalapeno.)
  • 2 T lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • Toasted pine nuts and grated lemon zest, to garnish (I’m usually opposed to the for garnish, but the pine nuts pretty much make this recipe.)
  • Crisp lettuce, to serve (I used a few Romaine leaves.)

Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the scallions and garlic. Stir in the cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the couscous, cover the pan and let it stand for 10 minutes, until the couscous has swelled and all the liquid has been absorbed. If you are using instant couscous, follow the package instructions. (I’m a package instructions kind of gal.)

Scrape the couscous into a bowl. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, mint, chile, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. If possible, set aside for up to an hour, to allow the flavors to develop fully.

To serve, line a bowl with lettuce leaves and spoon the couscous salad over the top. Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and grated lemon rind over the top, to garnish.


Like I said, super duper on the easy factor. Add a bit of extra veggies or some chicken to make it into a meal. My suggestion is to make a double batch if your child will only eat couscous for dinner.

Couscous Salad

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