Jewish Journal


August 29, 2013

Joan Nathan Makes Her Own Couscous



Leetal Arazi makes couscous. Photo by Liz Barclay for The New York Times

Joan Nathan is still the uber-Jewish food writer, and she proves it in a spare, original story in last Wednesday's New York Times, where she reveals the technique for making your own couscous.

By "making your own" I'm not talking about pouring water over a bowl of couscous from the exotics aisle at Ralphs.  I'm talking about doing what they do in Marrakesh: taking semolina, misting it with water, sifting it, steaming it, fluffling it, steaming it again.  Joan learns the technique from two Israeli chefs in Brooklyn, Ron and Leetal Arazi, who sell their hand-crafted Israeli food at NYShuk in Williamsburg.

Making couscous is not easy, and neither is describing making couscous.  But Joan pulls that off:

Mr. Arazi taught me how to make couscous in the kitchen of his Crown Heights apartment. Watching him work with his hands was mesmerizing. He put about four cups of semolina in a large mixing bowl, and dampened it by spraying it with water. Holding the bowl in his left hand, he patted and circled his fingers gently over the semolina until the grain started to clump into tiny balls. Then he steamed it over water.

Recipes go along with the description.  It's a worthy Rosh Hashanah project.   And not a bad New Years resolution: each year, resolve to make one thing by hand that you used to buy pre-made.  That alone brings us closer to our food, closer to our traditions, closer to one another.

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