Not Your Mother’s Couscous

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Well, of course not, as couscous is a pasta made from wheat. I have adapted my recipe to use quinoa instead, and I think it works very well. My first introduction to couscous was via Paula Wolfert’s fabulous first book. This by no means implies that she is responsible for this recipe. There is a little triumph hidden in this recipe, which is my substitute for classic preserved lemons. If you are one of those wonders who have preserved lemons on hand, you should certainly use them. I put the almonds out in a bowl—some like them; some don’t. Harissa is now readily available in markets. I find that which comes in tubes preferable. If a good butcher is available, asking to have the chickens cut up as for Chinese stir-frying usually does the trick. Otherwise, use a good cleaver.


This good-to-eat seed (grain) that I often serve as a side dish or as a replacement for rice when I want a risotto but am short of time is a nutritional wonder.

To cook quinoa, use twice as much liquid as quinoa by volume (2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa, for example). I usually add a little olive oil to the water. It can also be seasoned when cooked.

Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the quinoa. Stir and reduce the heat so that the quinoa bubbles. It will take from 15 to 20 minutes to cook, depending on the heat.

Serves4 to 6

Cooking Methodsauteeing, stewing


Total Timeunder 2 hours

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free


Taste and Texturemeaty, savory, spiced, sweet, tart


  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1¾ pounds small onions (1½ to 2 inches across), stem and root ends removed (about 8 cups)
  • 1 cup rice bran
  • One 4½-pound chicken, cut into about 16 small pieces through the bone
  • 1 pound white mushrooms, stemmed and quartered (about 5 cups)
  • 1½ pounds yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, deribbed, and cut into 1-inch squares (6 to 7 cups)
  • 1 head garlic, smashed, cloves separated, and peeled
  • 2 cups unsweetened dried apricots
  • 12 “Preserved” Lemon wedges
  • Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons harissa
  • 4 cups chicken stock, fake chicken stock, or sterile-pack
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt
  • 6 cups cooked quinoa (see Notes)
  • 1½ cups whole roasted almonds


  1. Heat the oil in a 6-quart braising pot over high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the onions. Cook until light brown, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Move the onions to a platter.

  2. Spread the rice bran on a newspaper or large sheet of parchment and dredge the chicken in it. Working in small batches (3 to 4 pieces at a time), brown each piece of chicken in the hot oil, then move to a platter when done.

  3. When finished browning the chicken, reduce the heat to low and return the onions and chicken to the pot. Add the mushrooms, yellow peppers, garlic, apricots, lemon wedges, cinnamon, and harissa. Pour in the chicken stock and stir to combine. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for 30 minutes more.

  4. Season with the lemon juice and salt to taste. Serve with a bowl of quinoa and almonds on the side for people to add if they wish.


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