Cape Malay Couscous and Asparagus
This dish celebrates all the great tastes of summer—rich, sweet tomato, snappy asparagus, and a tart burst of lime. It’s quick and easy, perfect for hot July evenings when the thought of turning on an oven is unbearable, or to make after a long day, when cooking anything elaborate isn’t an option but you don’t want take-out. File this dish under “make and repeat”, and let’s get cooking.
Couscous can be a real game-changer in the kitchen; it cooks quickly and is easy to infuse with a wide variety of flavors. We chose pearl, also known as Israeli, couscous for this dish. It’s larger than traditional couscous so it doesn’t cook quite as quickly, but at its longest it will be finished in less than 20 minutes. And, it’s more fun to eat. The large balls of semolina pasta are toothsome and chewy, and give a dish heft that would be lacking with the smaller couscous granules. We do not recommend using traditional couscous for this dish; it cooks too quickly and will not absorb the flavor from the tomato flakes properly.
We wanted to use a seasoning blend that would work well both with the tomato flakes and with a shot of lime juice, so we went for Cape Malay Curry Powder. It’s got earthy depth from turmeric and heat from both cayenne and mustard, but it’s sweet with cinnamon and clove and has a terrific perfume thanks to fenugreek. It’s traditionally used with curries that incorporate apricots and mangoes, so we thought it was a natural choice to highlight the bright flavors of tomato and lime.
While the couscous cooks, prepare your asparagus. Start to warm up your pan and oil. Rinse the asparagus in cool water, and then take a stalk by the stem end and bend it. The asparagus will naturally snap where the woody part ends and the soft, green, edible stalk begins. Once all the stalks have been snapped, chop them to size, put them in the hot oil, and sauté. That should take about 5 minutes; they’re done when they are a vibrant, hearty green. Adding vinegar to the asparagus after it’s been cooked in butter and oil gives it a wonderful freshness. If you let the vinegar and butter marry in the pan for a few moments, you won’t quite have a beurre blanc sauce, but you’ll have a classic combination or tart and savory that you may find you can apply to a myriad of dishes.
Once these two components are completely cooked, stir them together. That’s it. You can add a finishing squirt of lime juice if you’d like, or some freshly chopped parsley or cilantro. We served this with some cubes of Marinated Smoky Feta on top, to add a bit of salt, cream, and smoke to the brisk green bite of asparagus and the fruity heat of the curry. Serve with a simple salad for a satisfying meal that you can sit down and enjoy before that take-out is even delivered.
1. Follow the cooking instructions on the package of your favorite couscous with the addition of the tomato flakes at the beginning of the cooking process.
2. While the couscous is cooking, combine 1 teaspoon Fine Sea Salt, lime juice, Cape Malay Seasoning, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl. Stir to form a thin paste.
3. Pour cooked couscous into the bowl with the Cape Malay paste and stir thoroughly.
1. Remove woody stems from asparagus and cut the remaining stalks and tips into ½ inch pieces.
2. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter to a medium heat pan.
3. Sauté asparagus for roughly 5 minutes, until it turns bright green and begins to soften.
4. Finish asparagus in the pan with white balsamic vinegar; let it marry with butter and oil, then season with remaining teaspoon Fine Sea Salt and Pennsylvania Pepper.
5. Combine asparagus with couscous and serve warm or at room temperature.