The Algerian Couscous Connection

Don't you love finding terrific new authors?  Often I'll read the review for a brand new book, not even out yet, (which can be frustrating), but will go find what other books that author has written, read those reviews and perhaps check  one out.  Here's an enjoyable read by Juliet Blackwell, The Paris Key. first of a new series.   I noticed she had other books in series that didn't appeal (witches, ghosts and paranormal fiction), but this one definitely did, and I've already reserved her follow up to it.

A young American woman, Genevieve, with family ties to France, and even to Algeria, returns to Paris after the breakup of her marriage.  The city was where she spent some happy time as a troubled adolescent, with her loving aunt and uncle.  When he dies, she returns to find solace there once more, wearing around her neck an unusual key she inherited from her mother.  I loved all the connections, between family lost and found, secrets kept and finally revealed, past and present.  From the publishers:

"As a girl, Genevieve Martin spent the happiest summer of her life in Paris, learning the delicate art of locksmithing at her uncle’s side. But since then, living back in the States, she has become more private, more subdued. She has been an observer of life rather than an active participant, holding herself back from those around her, including her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

Paris never really left Genevieve, and, as her marriage crumbles, she finds herself faced with an incredible opportunity: return to the magical city of her youth to take over her late uncle’s shop. But as she absorbs all that Parisian culture has to offer, she realizes the city also holds secrets about her family that could change her forever, and that locked doors can protect you or imprison you, depending on which side of them you stand."

Blackwell described the wonderful food Genevieve remembers her aunt cooking, and while reading about  couscous, pita and tagine cooked lamb, I did wonder.  Paris, French cooking?  All is eventually revealed.  The Algerian connection.  Lots of good food throughout, French as well as Algerian.  So, with hats off to that  connection, I made a grilled fillet of wild caught salmon with some North African seasoning, and a side of couscous spiked with dates and orange zest.

Couscous with Dates
   from Gourmet Today, Edited by Ruth Reichl

Serves 4 as a side dish
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1//4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups (about 10 ounces) couscous
1/4 cup finely chopped dates
1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions

Toast allspice, cinnamon and cayenne in oil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Add couscous and toast, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and just a shade darker, about 2 minutes.  Stir in dates, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and zest, then add boiling water (mixture will bubble vigorously).  Remove pan from heat and let couscous stand, covered, for 5 minutes.  Fluff couscous with a fork, stir in scallions, and season with salt.  At this point I added in some chopped parsley and fresh rue, which I am growing now, discovered during our Cook the Books recent Roman read.  It was commonly used in ancient Rome and is still a cooking ingredient in North Africa and Ethiopia.

This savory post will be shared over at Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking event, and with Heather for the October Foodies Read Challenge.  Check them out and  Enjoy!


Mae Travels said...

Your salmon and couscous recipe really looks wonderful. The spices and dates must make it taste great.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Beth F said...

Oooh I love the Algerian connection! This couscous sounds delicious; I love the flavors. I've always meant to read THE PARIS KEY, I really should add it to my list.

Wendy Klik said...

I hadn't heard of this series until now. I will have to keep it in mind.