The Great North African Pasta

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Couscous is a form of cracked wheat steamed and eaten as a cereal or with meat and vegetables as a main dish, or even with fruit and nuts as a dessert.  I never knew about couscous growing up, but now it is available everywhere, even in a variety of flavors.  Cooks love it because it cooks in five minutes and can be served with so many different foods.  Everything you want to know about couscous and dishes it is served with is in this fascinating cookbook.  The chapters are divided into recipes from Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, along with historical facts about each area.  In Morocco, spices are used extensively, such as turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander, black pepper, and saffron.  The distinctive characteristic of Moroccan cooking is the ability to combine these wonderful spices with meats, mainly lamb.  The spices provide the life of the food.  Moroccans use a greater variety of spices than any other country except India.  Two of my favorite recipes in this chapter include harissa and spiced olives.  I have never been to Morocco, but I think I would love their spicy food.
Couscous is the national dish of Algeria and a traditional part of the diet.  Each family has its own idea how to prepare the perfect couscous.  Spices are paramount and garlic is cherished.  Flat leaf parsley is also used extensively.  The subtropical climate of northern Algeria is conducive to growing wheat for couscous.  Algerians love salads, and vegetables such as carrots, turnips, potatoes, and tomatoes are indispensable to their cuisine. 
Spices in an Algerian market
In Tunisia, there are four spices considered a special mix- ground coriander, dried mint, dried rose buds, and garlic  Everything is mixed together and dried in the sun on a clean white cloth for 3 or 4 days, then ground together.  Can you imagine the aroma of the air?  Olive oil is another outstanding product of the region.  Miles of olive trees are visible in the countryside.  Again, couscous is the national dish.  There are about 300 varieties of couscous throughout the land.  The world’s largest couscous factory is located in Sfax, where there are large vats of semolina flour, with miles of tubes and blowers that blow the pasta into the tiny pellets as we know them.  The smaller the better.  
Tunisian Marketplace
The recipes from all three chapters are exceptional.  If you love couscous and exotic cooking, you will find this book enjoyable to read and to cook with in your kitchen.  Surprise your family with something new this weekend! 


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