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Often thought of as a grain, such as bulgur wheat, couscous is actually processed much like pasta. When wheat is milled, it separates into three components -- the wheat germ, bran and endosperm. Endosperm is also known as semolina. To make couscous, the yellow semolina is rolled in flour until it is well coated.

Traditionally, couscous was made by hand rolling the coarse hard-wheat semolina with flour and a small amount of cold water until the right consistency was achieved. It is a staple of many North African diets and is now widely made in factories, making it more easily available.

Customarily, the hard grains were steamed in a strainer placed above a pot in which broth, called "marga," was cooking. Most couscous in today's market has been pre-cooked and dried. It is prepared by simply combining the grains with an equal amount of boiling water. Quick cooking or instant is available, but the instant is preferable in most recipes (this is similar to using instant oatmeal vs. quick cooking oats).

The ingredients in couscous are essentially that of pasta and the nutritional content (by weight) is similar.

2 ounces couscous = 213 calories, 0g fat, 0g sat fat, 0 mono fat, 7g protein, 44g carbohydrates, 6mg sodium, 0mg cholesterol