Couscous and Cold-Smoked Salmon

Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews

An exceptionally tasty meal you can make in under 15 minutes

In the new pamphlet, “A Taste of Zingerman’s Food Philosophy,” I share my belief that if you get great ingredients together, get to know them, honor them for what they are, and use effective basic processes that let their personalities shine through, good things are likely to happen. This simple dish, one that you can make at home in under 15 minutes, is positive proof. Six great ingredients—couscous, butter, smoked salmon, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and sesame seeds—come together to help create a delicious dinner with a minimal amount of work.

The idea of tossing just-cooked pasta with soft butter in this way is one I learned from my long-time friend, chef and cookbook author, Evan Kleiman. I got to imagining this adaptation the other evening. I’d already had the thought to cook some of the category-defining, hand-rolled, sun-dried, organic M’hamsa Couscous we get from the Mahjoub family in Tunisia. We have a couple other really nice cultured butters from France on hand at the Deli that would work well for this dish. The key is that it be high-quality cultured butter, not the more readily available “sweet” (i.e., uncultured) butter. We have terrific smoked salmons at the Deli too, including one smoked by T.R. Durham at Tracklements next to Miss Kim in Kerrytown that’s dusted with the delicious East Coast Spice Blend we get from Épices de Cru in Montreal.

This dish is a way to turn all those great ingredients into one exceptional meal. To get going, get your butter out to be sure it’s at room temperature by the time you’re going to cook. Cook the Majhoub’s M’hamsa Couscous as per the instructions on the jar. I cooked about eight ounces (dry weight) of couscous to make dinner for two. When it’s done, take the lid off the cooking pot, fluff the couscous lightly with a fork, and then gently mix in a generous amount of the soft, room-temperature butter (probably a tablespoon per person). To be clear, the burner is off at this point, so it’s just the heat of the couscous and the pot that’s working on coating the couscous with the butter. Chop the smoked salmon into small pieces and gently mix that in as well, along with freshly ground black pepper.

Place the couscous onto warm plates or bowls. Sprinkle on a bunch of toasted sesame seeds. That’s it! Eat it while it’s still hot. It’s delicious, and, knowing each producer as I do, it’s done with dignity in every direction. Six great ingredients, one inspiringly wonderful meal!