Thursday May 10, 2012 | 04:28 PM

Couscous now fills the warm place in my lazy-cook's heart that use to be filled will cereal and deli ham.

The stuff is just so darn easy and expeditious. If couscous were a person, it'd be someone you invited over all the time because it would make dinner for you, then rub your feet while you eat and repeatedly tell you how good looking you are.

It's hard not to like a food like that. But the stuff cooks up in a jiff and makes friends with just about anything you can think to toss into it. It's become my go-to food on those night when sluggishness reigns, but a burgeoning personal shame won't allow me to gnaw on raw pasta for dinner. At least not as often.

Here's the simple recipe I've been following for a cranberry and herb couscous that tastes splendid, looks smashing and won't give you a hard time on the stove: Cranberry Couscous
Half a shallot, chopped
1 cup Israeli couscous (aka pearl couscous)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 cranberries

Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Add shallots and saute for 1-2 min. Add couscous, stirring occasionally until it begins to brown. Add broth, then salt and cranberries. Bring to a boil. Put a lid on it, shut of the heat and let 'er sit for five minutes. Seriously, leave it alone. Don't keep lifting the lid to have a look-see. Back off, give it some space. Trust in the couscous.

After you've patiently waited all five minutes, toss in the parsley and fluff the couscous with a fork. Ta da.

There are loads of couscous recipes out there. And different kinds of couscous, like the smaller Moroccan kind. But whatever else goes in it, one thing I've learned makes all the difference: use broth instead of water.

Also, don't knock over a measuring cup filled with dried couscous. Just don't. Those granules of semolina will duck into the corners of the kitchen floor, emerging days or weeks later just to stick to your feet or scamper nosily across the hardwood before diving back into the shadows. So like I said, just try not to spill it.


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