Weeknight Cooking

Citrus Olive Cous Cous

December 26, 2011

Citrus Olive Cous Cous

- Jenny

I am a well documented hater of side dishes. I can’t defend this really. I mean everyone wants a little of this or that with their beef or chicken, even in the form of a steamed green thing. And yet I deprive my family almost nightly, giving them plates with unsightly bald spots where a mound of rice or bits of broccoli should be, because I can never plan dinner beyond protein and dessert. 

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Add this to the SORRY! list, right up there with forgetting to wash the volleyball uniforms (“It doesn’t smell that bad. No seriously!") and failing to turn in the lottery application for the school play. 

But when company comes, I feel a bit more obliged. So the other night, in looking for a side dish for my salmon for eight, I stumbled upon Citrus Olive Cous Cous. The first thing I have to tell you is that cous cous is a little divisive in my marriage, because my husband prefers the smaller traditional semolina, whereas I am a big fan of the pearl-sized guys, even though I believe them to be less traditional. (Paging Paula Wolfert!) When he starts cooking, he gets to pick. 

So! I doubled this recipe, and my main advice to you about it is to keep stirring occasionally. That is really all you need to know. Brown the cous cous a little, but not too much. Watch, and stir. Add the orange juice, bring to a boil and then cover as instructed, but again, do turn it a bit now and then or it is going to stick. That’s just the way it is.

While that is cooking, go ahead and cut up your olives. Get good ones, of course, because they are the central flavor in the dish. What I did next is add those olives, as well as the onions, and let them simmer a bit together rather than use it all as a dressing. 

I don’t garnish, so there were no rings. But it would have looked prettier with them. 

This dish is the perfect example of what happens when you take something a little sweet, something a little tangy, put it on a willing and pliant carbohydrate and go to town with little effort. I can’t wait to make it again. Even for my poor suffering side-less family. 


Citrus Olive Cous Cous by vegetarianirvana

Serves 3-4

1 tablespoon of light olive oil 
1 cup Israeli cous cous
1 and 3/4 cups of OJ, freshly sqeezed or store bought [without pulp]
10 + 2 salty, pitted green marinated olives
2 tablespoons, finely minced sweet yellow onions
Salt and pepper to taste
A couple of sprigs of lemon thyme leaves [optional]

By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.

Photo by James Ransom

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Written by: Jestei

The ratio of people to cake is too big.


Bevi December 28, 2011
We prefer the Israeli version as well. This is a great side and it is perfection!
vegetarianirvana December 26, 2011
Thanks Jenny, for your vote of confidence. Very privileged that my recipe graced your table.
TheWimpyVegetarian December 26, 2011
I love love love this. I'm so glad you unearthed it to share with us. I've got some couscous this will be perfect for!! Happy Holidays to you and your family!
marynn December 26, 2011
Talk about loaves and fishes! That 1 cup of couscous can feed 40 fits in this season of miracles. Must be the Israeli variety.