If you, too, find creamy carbs to be one of your top comfort foods, then you might get as excited as me when you try this creamy couscous with greens and fried egg. It’s very simple to make, and is a perfect example of how pantry staples and a few fresh garnishes can make your plate sing.
Treat your couscous like risotto, then toss in a few flavorful pantry staples...
If you cook starchy rice in a small amount of liquid, stirring vigorously to release as much starch as possible, and then finish with a knob of butter, you’ll get a creamy, beautiful risotto. If you cook starchy pearl couscous in the same way you’ll get creamy, beautiful… Cous-otto? Pearl couscous may be a pasta, not a grain, but thanks to the starchy thickening power of wheat it doesn’t take much to coax it into a luscious, creamy base for a meal. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a blank canvas for all kinds of delicious combinations.
Complexity ≠ Complicated. "More" isn't always the key to depth of flavor.
I love the nutty, sweet-savory aroma that couscous takes on when toasted, so I strategically picked my flavors to highlight that specific character. Za’atar, a dash of allspice, lightly browned shallot and garlic…These ingredients all have a strong earthy-savory character that is kissed with just a touch of sweetness. A little bit of salt and pepper, that final knob of butter… And suddenly you are in danger of eating the whole pot before it makes it to the plate.
The good news is that the garnishes are just as delicious as the creamy couscous itself. That makes it easier to resist the urge to gobble everything up while hunched over the stove. The tang of the lemon and yogurt, the fruity heat of harissa, and the brightness of fresh mint all make the perfect answering chorus to the nutty, savory couscous. And obviously, you know… Put an egg on it! That runny yolk is pure magic…
Psst… Looking for a good harissa? I recommend Zwita or Zonzon Organic. Zwita gives you a choice in heat level (mild really is mild!), and a wonderful, thick texture and concentrated flavor. Zonzon is made from fresh Baklouti peppers, rather than dried, so it has a much brighter and juicier flavor. 100% not an ad and not affiliated, I just think you deserve extraordinarily delicious, small-batch, lovingly made spicy condiments in your life. A dollop of either would also be fabulous in this braised green bean and potato dish and in the dressing of a zucchini and herb salad!
The silky yolk, mixing with the creamy couscous and yogurt, makes for a decadent and savory bite.
There is so much more that could be said about this recipe, but I kind of don’t want to keep going. I want you to go make it and eat it. But, once you have tried it, come back and we’ll talk. We’ll talk about how many different flavor combos would work, what other pasta shapes or greens we should try (arugula would be killer, and spoiler: orzo does work!), and what other types of protein could be added for extra hungry days (tinned tuna or mackerel for sure, or chickpeas to keep it vegetarian).
Notes for Success:
This is a straightforward and simple recipe, but it does require you to keep an eye on visual and textural cues as you cook.
1. When toasting your couscous, you’re looking for a golden brown color. It will continue to deepen even after you’ve removed it from the pot. You may want to err on the side of a lighter gold, and allow the carry-over cooking to take it the rest of the way. For extra certainty, keep a piece of untoasted couscous near you as a guide. That makes it quick to see how much the couscous in the pan has changed.
2. Make sure your pot is bubbling! Wheat starches thicken to their full potential when they come to a boil. By heating the water before you add it to the couscous you are decreasing the amount of time it will take for your pot to return to a boil, which means dinner on the table sooner. If your water is on the cooler side that’s fine, it will just take a bit longer for everything to cook.
3. When the couscous is done cooking, you want the cooking liquid to be thick and creamy– not watery and not sticky. Since the couscous (which is a pasta) will continue to absorb liquid as it sits, you’ll get a better final texture if you err a bit wetter before adding the spinach. Even so, you might need to loosen it up after it has sat waiting for the eggs to fry. Just return to low heat, add a splash of water at a time, and stir vigorously to wake the starches back up again.
Creamy Toasted Couscous with Greens and Fried Eggs
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided (1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons)
- 1 cup pearl couscous
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
- Kosher salt
- 2½ cups hot water
- 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach (roughly 2 large handfuls), finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter or vegan butter
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, whites and greens kept separate
- 1 large egg per person
- Good quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Torn fresh mint leaves
- Harissa or other hot sauce
- Plain yogurt
- Step 1Toasting the couscous: In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the couscous and cook, stirring constantly, until lightly browned, about 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or plate and set aside.
- Step 2Using the same still-hot small pot, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and the shallot. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the shallot is golden brown, 1-2 minutes, depending on your pot. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return the couscous to the pot and add the allspice and 1 teaspoon salt. Pour in ½ cup of the hot water and cook, stirring energetically, until most of the water has been absorbed, roughly 3 minutes. Repeat this 4 more times, adding water by the ½ cup and stirring and simmering until most of the water has been absorbed (about 10 minutes total). Once the last addition of water is absorbed, the couscous should be tender and suspended in a thick, creamy looking sauce (like risotto!). If needed, continue adding more water as before, but by the ¼ cup, until the sauce is creamy and the couscous is tender.
- Step 3Remove from heat and add the chopped spinach. Stir until wilted, then stir in the lemon juice, butter, and scallion whites (save the greens for garnish). Taste and season with salt, then cover and set aside. Fry your eggs according to your preference (the richness of a runny yolk is ideal). If needed, return the couscous to low heat to rewarm. Adjust the texture with small splashes of water, lemon juice and/or butter.
- Serve the couscous topped with a fried egg, drizzled with good quality olive oil, and sprinkled with the reserved scallion greens, torn mint leaves, and plenty of za'atar. Add a dollop of yogurt and harissa, or serve both on the side at the table.
This Post Has 2 Comments
This was actually really good. I was kind of skeptical about the texture, but I’ve been looking for ways to use up a large amount of couscous. It was really yummy, and really easy!
It is definitely an odd concept, but I’m so glad you tried it and liked it!