For something as stupidly easy to make as couscous, it’s amazing how rarely I want to make it. The problem is that couscous typically requires its own pot, and somehow I draw the line at cleaning a pot if I’m making myself lunch. A pan, fine. But a pot is a hair too far. On top of that, a pot, even a very small one, is not ideal for making couscous, especially in small quantities. The difficult thing about couscous is maintaining the right amount of liquid, and a pot, especially a nice heavy-bottomed one that stays hot, has too much potential to trap excessive moisture while also drying out the bottom with too much heat. When I’m making really small amounts of couscous, a pot is basically useless, since it spreads the grains out too much. So for all of these reasons, I urge you – make couscous in a measuring cup.
Here’s the deal: if you have a heat-proof 2-cup liquid measuring cup and a water kettle, you have the perfect vessel for a small amount of couscous. As long as the cup can make it through the dishwasher, it can handle boiling water. And couscous doesn’t need to be cooked, it just needs to be steamed with the right amount of liquid. Although most recipes will tell you to cover the couscous while it steams, I’ve found that it comes out best without a cover, or it gets too wet. A measuring cup is also extremely useful for getting the, well, measurements right. Simply pour in the couscous first, then pour in the boiling liquid up to the line. Or, alternately, if you don’t have a kettle but you do have a microwave, boil the liquid in the microwave first then add the couscous up to the right line. It’s an easy measurement, because you just need equal volumes of couscous and liquid. This whole process also makes it easier to multi-task in a small kitchen – the couscous can come together quickly and easily with minimal mess while you cook whatever you are adding to it. For me, that usually means some pan-fried chickpeas and a fresh element like raw cucumber or tomato. Once the couscous has sat for a few minutes, the measuring cup will still have plenty of space to stir and fluff the couscous.
Simple chickpeas and couscous for one
Drain one can of chickpeas and sauté on medium-high heat in 1 tbsp oil, stirring occasionally, until browning and crispy. Season with a pinch each of salt, pepper, paprika, and basil (dried or fresh). Remove to a bowl. Add 2 stalks of chopped kale to the pan and cook until the centers of the stalks are tender and the edges of the leaves are crispy. Meanwhile, boil 1/2 cup water or stock and add to a heat-proof liquid measuring cup (I like to boil the water in a kettle and add 1/2 tsp of Better than Bouillon into the measuring cup) along with 1/2 cup couscous and 1 tbsp dried cranberries. Stir the couscous and liquid quickly but thoroughly and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Add in 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar and stir again to fluff the couscous, then add in 2 inches of cucumber, chopped, and an equal portion of feta. Add the couscous into the bowl with the chickpeas and kale and enjoy!