Couscous is a fine pellet made from semolina flour, each golden grain a bit larger than the head of a pin. Some chefs call it “Moroccan pasta” because it is made with the same durum wheat used to make pasta. Here, cooked couscous is combined with roasted green peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The resulting salad is similar to Middle Eastern tabouleh and perfect for a summer picnic.
Wash the couscous in cold water and drain immediately. Lift and rake the grains with your fingertips to separate them. Let rest 10 minutes.
Heat water in the bottom of a soup pot fitted with a steamer. The steamer should fit snugly into the pot, and the bottom of the steamer should not touch the water. Line the steamer with 3 layers of cheesecloth that cover both the bottom and the sides of the steamer and go up over the top. Add the couscous to the steamer and steam for 20 minutes, fluffing the grains halfway through the cooking.
Remove the couscous from the steamer and put it into a baking pan. Combine the water and salt. Sprinkle the couscous with the salt water. Lift and rake the grains with your fingertips to separate them. Let rest 10 minutes.
Place the steamer back in the soup pot and return the couscous to the cheesecloth-lined steamer. Steam slowly for 15 minutes. Remove the steamer and the couscous. Let the couscous cool completely.
The couscous can be prepared to this point up to 2 days in advance.
Place the couscous in a bowl and add the peppers, tomatoes, cucumber, chili pepper, parsley, and cilantro.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, paprika, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Toss with the couscous and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper.
Photo: Scott Phillips