Cuckoo for Couscous

Call it a carb with an identity crisis: Couscous is not quite pasta but not quite rice. This zany, grainy dish is made from two sizes of husked, crushed and unground semolina and has been a Middle Eastern staple for centuries. Today it’s making its way onto some of the trendiest menus for a power-packed dish that offers endless possibilities.

Couscous Fritters With Fresh Corn and Tomato Salsa

2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, finely diced and drained
2 ears sweet corn, shucked and cooked
   (about 1 1/2 cups kernels)
15 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped
   (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons finely diced onion
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ketchup
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup broth
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup couscous
1 egg, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
8 ounces turkey sausage or pork sausage, casing removed

For the salsa:
In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, corn, half of the cilantro, the onion, lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon of the cumin, the ketchup and salt. Set aside.

For the fritters:
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the broth, chili powder, butter and remaining cumin. Bring to a boil. Add the couscous in a stream. Stir once. Cover, and remove from the heat. Set aside until the couscous is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl, and combine with the egg.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, pour the vegetable oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat until a pinch of couscous sizzles instantly. Place the couscous mixture, in 1/3-cup increments, into the skillet. With a spatula, flatten into croquettes 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Fry until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate with paper towels to drain, and keep warm in the oven.

In another medium skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up with a fork, until thoroughly cooked, 6 to 8 minutes. With the spatula, transfer the meat to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Set aside.

Spoon some of the salsa onto four individual dinner plates. Set a fritter in the center of each plate. Top with equal portions of sausage and additional salsa. Garnish with the remaining cilantro leaves, and serve. Serves 4.

Recipe courtesy of Couscous by Kitty Morse, Chronicle Books.

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