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April 29, 2009

Fool Your Friends, Stuff Your Kale (With Couscous)


There is a simple trick if you wish to fool your friends and houseguests into believing that you have kitchen skills far beyond your actual abilities – take one piece of food and stuff it into another one. The result always appears a great deal more complicated and effort-intensive than it really was in the first place. Plus, the blend of flavors will make your friends think that you are a complicated person, capable of deep and abstract thought.


This is especially the case when you attend to a side dish. Most people assume that the greatest amount of effort will always be devoted to the main course, since it is the de facto center of attention. Then, when you hit them with a side dish that appears to have required effort, people are typically floored and confer upon you – when your back is turned – godlike powers.


This is triply the case when your food involves something that has the ring of the exotic to it. For instance, couscous. What is couscous? Couscous is essentially pasta that is ground into a sand-like consistency. For some reason, people are amazed when this is served. The reason is the name.


Making couscous, even flavorful couscous, is about the simplest thing in the world. Boil some vegetable stock and add seasonings. For our purposes here, those are garlic powder and dill. The rule of thumb for couscous to moistening agent is a ratio of one-and-a-half to one (1.5 cups of stock to one cup couscous).


Here is how simple it is to make couscous. Once that stock and seasoning begins to boil, add couscous and stir into the water. Turn off the heat, cover and move to a different, unused burner. Matters just kind of work themselves out from there in about five minutes.


We are talking about stuffing something here, and what we are going to stuff are kale leaves. Find some big kale leaves that you can lay flat. Steam them for a few minutes to soften them up. The ultimate trick here is that you will want them to cut easily with either a simple dinner knife or, if your guests include graceless clods, the side of a fork.


By this time, the couscous will be cooked. Add some butter to moisten it further, and scoop some onto the kale leaves. Roll them up. You have now stuffed dill garlic couscous into kale leaves. Do you not feel more advanced for having done this? If not, assure yourself that you are not done.


Brush the leaves with a light layer of olive oil, place into an oven at 375 degrees and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and then, as everyone who is eating watches, squeeze fresh lemon juice over all of them.


They may not know what you did, but they’ll reward you with an appreciative round of applause. And you will learn the most important aspect of really everything in life, which is mastery of simple showmanship.


© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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