one of the most versatile and screw-up proof side dishes ever is the little pelleted bits of wheat sold as cous cous. as the wiki page tells us, the stuff readily available in the western grocery store is basically instant – just boil some water, add a bit of the dry wheat bits, cover and remove from heat, ready to fork-fluff and eat in 5 minutes. the pretty tri-color variety i get at the store comes in a canister large enough to contain several meals’ worth, is pretty cheap, and works just as easily as the package claims. with just a little butter and salt in the boiling water (as described on the package), cous cous is a nice change of pace from standard rice or pasta or potato side dishes.
the great thing about it, though, is that it’s very much a blank slate. add anything you feel like and flavor the heck out of that stuff from sweet to savory; it’s very forgiving of experimentation.
garlic veggie cous cous:
in a medium-sized sauce pan, heat a pat of butter until melted and sizzling. add a generous spoonful of diced garlic, some chopped onion, and whatever vegetables you have on hand (bell peppers + shredded carrots + pine nuts is a fave combo of mine). cook until the veggies are done but not mushy – ideally, there is a little bit of char in the pan. remove the veggies and set aside in a bowl. put the same pan back on the stove without cleaning it. add water, butter, and salt as per the package instructions to make the desired number of servings. when the water has come to a boil, turn off the stove, add the dry cous cous and stir. stir in the veggies as well, then cover for 5 minutes. done!
if you want something a little sweeter, add gold raisins or craisins.
if you want something more savory, add stock or fat from some meat you’ve cooked.
cous cous is light and fluffy, so don’t add anything too heavy (i.e., chunks of meat served ON it are good, but mixed IN it during cooking, not so much). any available veggies, and even plenty of fruits, do wonderfully in this, so boldly experiment with what you have on hand.