Homemade Couscous Class with NYShuk
A few weeks ago, I took a cooking class at Haven’s Kitchen with the folks from NY Shuk. The theme was a Middle Eastern Shabbat dinner. I enrolled because of a mounting interest in Middle Eastern cuisine (you can read all about my Sargento-sponsored flavor journey in these posts), as well as a desire to expand what I think of as Jewish cuisine. I grew up on a strictly brisket-and-kugel holiday diet–what my great-grandparents ate in Eastern Europe and what my grandparents continued to eat in New York City. Recently, I’ve encountered Jewish New Yorkers from Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Morocco–their matbucha and stuck-pot rice. I’ve been wanting to know more about their cuisine.
Here’s what was on the menu:
NY Shuk is run by a couple who recently moved to Brooklyn from Israel. They sell hand-rolled couscous with different toppings every Saturday at Smorgasburg, and I have a feeling that they’re going to be expanding their business in one way or another soon.
As you can see, this homemade couscous was on the menu. Indeed, it was the highlight of the evening.
See, when it comes to couscous, we’ve been doing it wrong. At NY Shuk, they hand roll couscous. The process goes something like this.
First, you spritz semolina with water. The idea is to gently rehydrate the coarsely milled flour. Semolina is made from wheat, but it sometimes has the look of polenta. As you spray in the water, you also run your hand through the grain, hydrating it evenly.
We all took a turn, but none of us had quite the skill of Ron Arazi, half of NY Shuk, who makes couscous in serious quantity.
You pour the moistened semolina into a steamer set over boiling water and stir it for a few minutes, until it no longer clumps. Then you put the lid on the steamer and let the couscous cook for about half an hour or so.
Then you take out the couscous, mix it with a little oil, and put it back in the steamer basket to cook some more. (This is a little bit of a process.)
Finally, you pass the couscous throw a wide sieve to take out any clumps. You’re left with this light fluffy grain as good on its own as it was perfect for sopping up the other flavors of the meal.
The meal was really delicious. I had seconds and could have had thirds. The slow-cooked lamb was a hit, as was an incredibly well-spiced steamed carrot salad. The NY Shuk team made tabbouleh with walnuts instead of bulgur, which I adored.
I hadn’t taken a cooking class in a long time (more recently, I’ve been teaching them!), and I loved the instant camaraderie of the event, starting with the licorice-flavored cocktails.
Here’s a last note–and sort of a secret. At kosher dinners, such as Shabbat, even non-observant Jews tend to keep kosher, which means not mixing meat and dairy together. That was easy at this meal, which was rich with all kinds of flavors from dried fruits to slow-cooked lamb. But whenever I have leftover grains–say, perhaps, fresh couscous–I love to reheat them in the microwave with some cooked onions and maybe spinach and a whole lot of cheese. This has been a comfort food of mine since the college dining hall days.
I’d recommend some couscous and perhaps some extra carrots reheated with a decent handful of Sargento shredded Swiss. A bowl of that would make me happy any day.
This sponsored post is part of an ongoing collaboration with Sargento, called Flavor Journey. Throughout the year, with the support of Sargento, I’m exploring Middle Eastern cuisine–at home, in Brooklyn, at cooking classes, and wherever the flavors may take me. Sponsored posts let me do some of my best work on this blog, and I only ever work with brands whose values and products mesh with the content I love to produce for you. You can read my affiliate disclosure here.