Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Middle Eastern-Inspired Couscous

afghani-inspired couscous

As I write this post, I am distracted by a beauteous scenery outside. There are patches of fluffed pillows scattered across an azzurro sky. The weather is slightly warmer; its soft voice is encouraging plants to sprout, birds to sing, and people to bask in the afternoon sun.

Mother Nature’s “perhaps hand”, as E.E. Cummings once wrote, “is arranging a window while people stare arranging and changing placing.” This time of the year reminds me of times spent walking through the farmers’ market to see what the season has to share. It reminds me of a perfect warmth found in foods we love. It, most of all, reminds me of this couscous.

forking the couscous. yes, I have all of my fingers if you were wondering.

This couscous packs many middle-eastern inspired flavors. It is like a pillow of cool warmth. The spices in this couscous produce a sense of warmth. The cold yogurt dressing and the cool temperature at which this couscous is served give off a sense of cool. This salad gracefully welcomes in Spring.

The flavors in this salad are a riff on the flavors of Afghani brown rice, only this takes but a few minutes to throw together and is a lovely accompaniment to my lamb chops.

mixing all of the ingredients

Afghani-Inspired Couscous
Serves 3-5

Although this couscous doesn’t need much time to make (Because of the instant couscous. Cough.), it does require quite a few ingredients. The yogurt dressing adds a lot to the salad, and is just enough to tie all of the flavors together without over-powering anything.

Surely vegetable add-ins (i.e. chickpeas) would be lovely in this couscous to make it hearty and very much salad-like. If you prefer to have more yogurt dressing, simply double or triple the dressing recipe (I would leave out the olive oil if you do plan on doubling/ tripling).

Be sure to use a fork when mixing the couscous to avoid clumpy and mushy couscous.


3 tablespoons greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon milk
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil

1 cup cooked couscous**

½ cup (4g / .15 oz) loosely packed mint leaves, chopped
½ cup (7g / .25 oz) loosely packed parsley leaves, chopped
¼ cup (25g / .90 oz) finely chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
Healthy pinch of lemon zest
Pinch Nutmeg
Salt & Pepper, to taste


Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together in a bowl. Set aside.

Fork the cooked couscous. Mix in the mint, parsley, red onion, garlic, lemon zest, cumin seeds, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

Mix the couscous and dressing together. Serve cold.

**To cook the couscous: Follow the package directions or place ⅔ cup uncooked couscous in a bowl. Stir in 2/3 cup boiled water. Cover with plastic wrap for 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Pistachio, Mint, & Spice Crusted Lamb Chops
Easy One Bowl Buttermilk Biscuits Recipe

Font Size: a A | print recipe Print Recipe | 21 Comments


  • Lan
    March 15th, 2011

    This salad gracefully welcomes in Spring.

    how aptly you put it. i was going to ask how it could be both cool & warm and then that sentence makes it all clear.

    kamran replied:

    Thanks Lan!

  • Mika
    March 15th, 2011

    I love couscous…It is the dish I always make to save the dinner when I’m not in the mood for cooking…
    It is so easy and quick to do…but I have never thought to dress it with yogurt…it is a great idea

    kamran replied:

    Oh, I am obsessed with yogurt sauces and dressings! And when I’ve had a busy day, the last thing I want to do is make brown rice with my lamb chops (which are also very quick!) this is my alternative to Afghani brown rice. And I don’t apologize that it takes a fraction of the time to put together. I’m also including a lovely yogurt-mint sauce with the lamb chops when I post them… So stay tuned for that.

  • El
    March 15th, 2011

    Looks wonderful. Poetic and delicious.

  • Kalynskitchen
    March 15th, 2011

    Sounds fantastic! This has all the flavors I love.

  • leaf (the indolent cook)
    March 15th, 2011

    I’m loving the flavours in this one… I imagine it would taste gorgeous.

  • Sprinzette @ Ginger and Almonds
    March 15th, 2011

    Fantastic flavours, and really lovely photos. New to your blog, but really enjoying what I’ve come across.

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food
    March 15th, 2011

    Kamran, I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned how much I admire you’re writing (and your photographs, of course). “Cool warmth”… there’s no other way of describing the feeling you get from the dish, but you did it so eloquently.

  • Emily | Nomnivorous
    March 15th, 2011

    Brian has it right, your writing is pretty amazing Kamran. This post, especially, hits just the right notes. This time of the year inspires so many of us, I love seeing your iteration.

    By the way, I love the Pyrex! I own the same one, in two sizes.

    kamran replied:

    Brian and Emily- you both are very kind! Emily, I think that’s our only one, but I love it for it’s shape and versatility!

  • Kankana
    March 15th, 2011

    First time in your blog and it’s full of mouthwatering dishes! I am always looking for new salad recipes .. and i really like this one:)

  • Sally - My Custard Pie
    March 16th, 2011

    Middle Eastern food is so healthy – just eating something so packed with herbs puts a spring in your step. I like to have a dish of something like this in the fridge so I can dig into for a few spoonfuls for an energy boost.

    kamran replied:

    Want to know something? I kept doing that! Every moment I found an excuse to walk into the kitchen, I was armed with a clean spoon to get a spoonful of this deliciousness.

  • Helene
    March 16th, 2011

    Love your writing style! Delicious salad. Have a great day :)

    kamran replied:

    Thanks so much! :)

  • Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction
    March 16th, 2011

    Such a lovely post… And, an equally lovely dish! I love all of the flavors… I bet it would be great with quinoa, too (which happens to be my new grain of choice)!

    kamran replied:

    Oh, it definitely would be lovely with quinoa!

  • Kelly
    March 16th, 2011

    Your post makes me hungry, not just because this sounds like it would taste fantastic but also because things haven’t been so springy here lately. Yep. Jealous.

  • sharizat
    March 16th, 2011

    nicely written intro to new spring!
    just reading the spices list makes me feel cozy and ready to embrace the rebirth of the nature. i missed farmers markets this winter!
    i’ll try to recreate this recipe—i love couscous for it’s so easy to cook. i can eat this kind of dish by itself, but spring lamb you promised sounds even better :)

  • Gabriela Rodiles
    August 31st, 2011

    Thanks for your refreshing couscous recipe idea. I have only had couscous served warm, so a chilled dish sounds unique to me. Especially with the fresh dressing and herbs. I’m a fan and look forward to trying it for myself!

    I was curious about couscous for my own food blog, so I did a little research. I am still amazed about how quickly and easily couscous can be made. It’s definitely a great meal for college students like me!

    You can check out my post about the history of couscous here: http://gourmetgab.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/couscous-the-basics/. I will be linking to your recipe in my followup post about couscous recipes!

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