Couscous with Touches of Orange, Dill, and Pistachio

Adapted from: Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven
Preparation time: 20 minutes (5 minutes of work)
Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Couscous is actually a tiny pasta (sometimes referred to as "North African pasta") made from semolina wheat. Cooking couscous by traditional methods requires several steaming processes to attain a light and fluffy result. Recently, quick-cooking varieties that require only a brief soaking in hot water have become available.

The whole-wheat type invariably becomes mush, and I wouldn't recommend it for anything other than a good, hot breakfast cereal. But the light-colored quick kind is quite good, and if handled correctly can make an ethereal pilaf, accessible to the busy, working cook. For more information about couscous (including great cultural information, anecdotes, and details/directions on the authentic, traditional way to cook it), I highly recommend the definitive work by Paula Wolfert, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco.

2 cups quick-cooking couscous (not whole-wheat)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
Salt to taste
1 medium-sized juice orange
3 to 4 tablespoons finely minced fresh dill (or 1 tablespoon dried dill)
1/2 cup minced, toasted pistachio nuts
  1. Place the couscous in a medium-sized bowl. Pour in the boiling water, and cover the bowl with a plate. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the couscous is tender. Fluff thoroughly with a fork and add salt to taste.
  2. Grate the zest from the orange and then squeeze out all the juice. Add both the zest and juice to the couscous, along with the dill. Mix well, making sure there are no clumps of couscous left on the bottom of the bowl. Cover tightly, and set aside until serving time.
  3. Without removing the cover, heat just before serving in a microwave or a regular oven at 325°F. Serve hot, sprinkled lightly with pistachios.
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