BERKELEY (KCBS) – This traditional Moroccan food is starting to find a place on restaurant menus again.

A lot of people think couscous is a type of cracked wheat, but it’s really more like a primitive form of pasta.

Semolina, the same coarse, purified wheat used to make pasta, is moistened and rolled between the hands until it forms into small pellets. Those get dusted with dry flour and roll some more until they turn into even smaller balls.

The balls get pressed, or more correctly, shaken, through a sieve. Whatever is small enough to pass through the sieve is gets sprinkled on the semolina again and the process repeats until the whole mixture is turned into tiny granules.

There are many different styles of couscous, too.

In the early 1950s during the austerity period in Israel, Israeli couscous became a substitute for rice. It’s perfectly round little round balls, smaller than pepper corns, sometimes only about 1/16th of an inch in diameter.

Lebanese couscous is also perfectly round little balls, except these are about the size of peas.

Every variety cooks very much the same and can be used interchangeably in recipes, although it certainly takes a different length of time to cook. Lebanese couscous, since the pieces are so large takes the longest.

Whether it’s used in place of cracked wheat or in place of rice, couscous is a wonderful grain and a wonderful addition to the menu.

Narsai David is the KCBS Food and Wine Editor. He has been a successful restaurateur, chef, TV host, and columnist in the Bay Area spanning four decades. You can hear him Saturdays at 10:53 a.m., 12:53 p.m. and 4:53 p.m., and at 2:53 a.m. Sunday on KCBS All News 740AM and 106.9FM.


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