"THE GREAT BOOK OF COUSCOUS: Classic Cuisines of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia" by Copeland Marks

"THE GREAT BOOK OF COUSCOUS: Classic Cuisines of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia"

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Marks (Sephardic Cooking, not reviewed, etc.) has a good idea: promoting the grain that is the staple of North African cuisine. Classic meals in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia are built around meat and vegetables, with couscous serving as filler. But while Marks is intent on remaining true to tradition, the title of this book proves thoroughly misleading: There are recipes for couscous, but no more than eight per chapter, about 20 in total. For the rest, the author provides instructions for making a complete meal, from couscous-less main dishes based on lamb, beef, fish, and chicken to salads, vegetables, and condiments, to sweets, beverages, and breads. Recipes are divided into three sections, reflecting the region's three nations, each supplemented with a section on that country's Jewish food. Everything tested, from the cumin-flavored carrot salad to the light, scallion-accented cucumber salad and the savory couscous with merquez (a spicy sausage) was delicious and fairly simple to prepare. But some of the ingredients are difficult to find for those without a local African market, and Marks does not include mail-order information. Brief introductions to the recipes offer handy suggestions for substitutions (use Cornish game hens if you can't get your hands on pigeons) and give interesting history on certain dishes, but some are pointless, as when Copeland tells vegetarians to leave the lamb out of a dish but still garnish it with merquez: ""The dedicated vegetarian may omit the sausage, but think of what he or she is missing,"" she opines. Could have been great, but doesn't quite make it.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1994
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Donald Fine