Easy Pantry Dinners: 5 Quick Dishes with Couscous

Couscous was invented for rushed, distracted, and hard-working cooks like us. Ok, maybe it was invented to go with delicious North African tagines and Middle Eastern pilafs. But the fact that it cooks up in minutes and requires almost no attention makes it feel like our weeknight meal savior.

Couscous is a kind of pasta made with semolina flour, but it doesn't require boiling to cook it. Traditionally, couscous is steamed, but most of the couscous we buy in the US only needs to be soaked in hot water.

The basic ratio is one cup of water (or even better, broth!) to one cup of dry couscous. Mark Bittman recommends a slightly higher ratio of 1 1/2 cups of water to a cup of couscous. Play around with it and see which you prefer. Just bring the water to a boil and pour it over the couscous. Cover the pan and let the couscous sit for about ten minutes while you do other things. Fluff the couscous with a fork just before serving to separate the individual grains.

Here are some of our favorite quick dinners with couscous:

1. Quick Salmon and Couscous with Cilantro Vinaigrette - The cilantro vinaigrette ties together the buttery flavor of the salmon and the nutty couscous.

2. Couscous with Raisins, Pine Nuts, and Capers - An excellent side dish to pair with roast chicken.

3. Sautéed Shrimp and Tomatoes with Lemon Couscous - Infusing the couscous with lemon is an excellent way to add flavor to this dish.

4. Couscous Salad with Winter Squash and Cranberries - The squash takes a bit longer to cook, but the recipe makes enough to last you through several lunches during the week.

5. Spicy Chickpea Stew with Roasted Cauliflower Over Couscous - Couscous mellows out this complex and flavorful vegetarian stew.

What are your favorite recipes with couscous?

Related: Easy Pantry Dinners: 5 Meals with Frozen Edamame

(Images: Stephanie Barlow and Emily Ho)