Couscous traces its origin to East Africa and is a staple in diets from Morocco and Algeria to the Middle East and Israel. It is associated with family and religious celebrations throughout much of North Africa.
Couscous plays a similar dietary role to rice, pasta or bread, and is prized for being an inexpensive and highly nutritious product. Part of its popularity is due to its ability to be stored long-term and ease of preparation.
Couscous is cooked in a special kind of two-part pot known as a couscousier. The bottom part is a pot used to cook the vegetables, meats, spices and herbs that will accompany and flavor the couscous. The top part, where the couscous is cooked, is filled with small holes and sits in the well of the bottom pot, much like a double-boiler.
Our Near East® couscous products are much easier to make than the traditional method. Just add couscous to boiling water, let sit for 5 minutes, and it's ready to serve.
Pilafs are most often made with rice, but sometimes may be used with other grains. It is believed that pilaf, which is also called pilau, originated in Persia. One of the earliest references to pilaf on record can be found in Alexander the Great's description of Bactria (an Eastern Iranian province).
Pilafs have since traveled through the Middle East, the Mediterranean and to the New World via the Caribbean, picking up local flavors along the way.
The pilaf method primarily refers to the steps taken to create the dish. First, the grain of choice is sautéed in oil with vegetables or seasoning and then the grain is simmered in just enough broth or water to become tender. The primary grain may be mixed with other grains or pasta, like orzo. The creative possibilities with pilaf are really endless.
Tabouleh (also known as tabbouleh or tabouli) is a Lebanese or Syrian salad dish, often used as part of a mezze platter. Its primary ingredients are bulgur, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, scallions and other herbs with lemon juice, olive oil and various seasonings sometimes including cinnamon and allspice.
In Syria and in Lebanon, where the dish originated, tabouleh is often eaten by scooping it up in Romaine lettuce leaves. It is popular when combined with falafel as one of the salads on a falafel sandwich.
The origin of pasta is unknown, with conflicting stories across many years of history. There are many theories, from Greek and Roman myth to references in the Talmud, written in the 5th century, A.D.
Whatever the origin of the first pasta dish, it is certain that pasta became a popular and versatile dish as it spread across Europe and then to the New World, where it met a longtime companion in the tomato. Pasta is overwhelmingly associated with Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines.