I always have lots of fun when one of the ingredients in my dish is couscous. It’s really because it’s one of those “just add water” things that enlarge when they absorb the liquid. In reality, there’s not much to it, but it is reminiscent of my childhood full of playing outdoors with my friends, getting wet in the process when all you needed to do was really soak the rubber toy in water.
Nostalgia aside, this dish is one I found from a newsletter email that I get, which I can’t even pinpoint which one (The Dish, Epicurious, Foodista?! – I can’t remember). In these cold spring nights, one craves for a hot dish – temperature and flavor-wise. I love this because you can make it as hot as your palate can take. I like mine super spicy, and Chef prefers his medium, so I found a perfect balance in between. With the couscous, this becomes a pretty hearty meal. I guess this is my way of cheating with my No Rice lenten sacrifice.
(As I always note, I only really measure when I bake, so these are approximations.)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 pound of boneless chicken (could be thigh or breast) cut into cubes (or however you really want, but square is my go-to shape)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 3/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 or 4 potatoes cut into half-inch cubes (the recipe actually said sweet potato but I didn’t have any hehe)
1 zucchini cut into quarters 1-inch thick
1 small can of tomato paste (about 1 cup)
4 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup couscous
How to do it:
1. Heat oil in a large pot and start cooking the onions until they become translucent.
2. Add the chicken and stir occasionally, making sure all sides of the chicken pieces get heated.
3. Add the cayenne pepper. Feel free to add more if you please. I added another pinch for that extra kick.
4. Add both cumin and salt to the pot.
5. Grind pepper on the chicken. This is another one that you can add more of depending on your taste. Stir very well so all the spices are distributed properly.
6. Toss in the potatoes (or sweet potatoes) and zucchini.
7. Add the tomato paste and water.
8. Then, add the chicken broth. Mix in the paste very well to let it dissolve.
9. Bring the soup to a boil. What you want is for the vegetable to get tender. This will approximately take 10 or so minutes. I suggest grabbing a bite of the potato to test.
10. Finally, add the couscous. Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT add more than 1/2 cup of couscous. I stress that because, going back to the “just-add-water” bit that I had above, the couscous will expand. And, if you add more than required, yes it will be soupy now, but believe me, a few minutes later, it will absorb all the water. 1/2 cup is the perfect amount that has room to expand in this broth.
11. Let it simmer for 5 minutes after adding the couscous (to give it time to expand), and immediately remove from heat.
After that, serve and snuggle!