It was only a few years ago that the mention of a food such as cous cous would have brought blank stares in America. Today, of course, this is no longer the case-ethnic cookbooks are currently very popular. What makes this book in particular exceptional is the knowledge of the writer. Couscous, Fresh and Flavorful Contemporary Recipes was written by Kitty Morse, who though of French and English ancestry, was born and raised in Casablanca. And with her inherent knowledge has continued to explore the enormous breadth of North African Cuisines. Some of her previously published works include Cooking in the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen, and the Vegetarian Table: North Africa. Ms. Morse's writing has also appeared in many national publications, including Bon Appétit and Fine Cooking. She has also lectured on North African cuisine at such prestigious venues as the Smithsonian Institution.
Couscous, Fresh and Flavorful Contemporary Recipes is well written and the recipes are easy to follow. The book opens with a very informative chapter aptly entitled Basics. There you will find explanations for traditional items such as steaming couscous, toasting nuts, and how to use saffron. There are also recipes listed in this chapter for traditional North African condiments, such as preserved lemons, preserved butter, and the fiery North African hot sauce known as harissa.
In this book you'll find very innovative recipes utilizing couscous. In the fifty or so recipes that are included Ms. Morse has created wonderful dishes for ever course, from soup to nuts-Shredded Pork Couscous Tamales, Curried Couscous Croquettes, and even desserts such as Couscous Mango Mousse and Raspberry Couscous Trifle. Given her upbringing, there are, of course, more traditional recipes included also-Spicy Tunisian Couscous Soup, Moroccan Sweet Couscous with Almonds, Raisins, and Orange Blossom Water, and Fennel Couscous Tunisienne.
Couscous, Fresh and Flavorful Contemporary Recipes is also a visually beautiful book-the photographs alone will make a person want to cook and eat couscous. Alison Miksch is the photographer, her work has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Country Home, and Shape magazines.
If I had to have one criticism of this excellent book (and it's a personal one, because I tend to be a traditionalist) is that Kitty Morse stretches the use of couscous a tad too far. While her recipes are all well-written, and couscous is a neutral enough substance to meld with most flavors, recipes such as gumbo, steak and mushroom pie, chicken kiev, and tamales would all fare better with their traditional accompaniments.
All in all this is a very good and thorough book on the subject of this popular food. It is a welcomed addition to my library, and I highly recommend it to those already interested in couscous, and to those just learning about it.