There aren’t many absolute food rules in my house, but here’s one: I never buy canned soup. This is one of my most visible acts of rebellion against my parents; after my brother and I went off to college, for a time my parents almost exclusively ate canned soup for dinner. I found this kind of gross, and also deeply sad. My parents didn’t have to cook gourmet meals for themselves, but couldn’t they take a little more pride in what they ate for dinner every night?
Unfortunately, I’ve had to violate my own strict rule on two occasions so far this year (including this morning). I’ve established one caveat: When you are the family’s cook, and you’re too weak to stand because of the flu, then it’s acceptable to use canned soup.
Today I offer the easiest one-bowl meal I’ve featured on the site. My brother David developed this recipe (really, a technique) when he was cooking for himself as an undergraduate at Northwestern. There are only two ingredients to this dish: a can of chunky soup, and couscous. (Note that even David couldn’t stand to just eat canned soup for dinner.)
This recipe will feed two people for lunch, or one hungry person for dinner. It’s brilliant because by adding couscous, the soup gets less salty. From opening the can to eating dinner will take less than 20 minutes.
- 1 can (approximately 19 ounces) chunky soup. I went old-school this time and used chicken and rice.
- 1/2 cup couscous (Like rice, couscous needs double the amount of water when cooking. There is about 1 cup of liquid in a can of soup.)
Step 2. Turn the heat on high and cook until the liquid begins to boil (about 90 seconds). Turn the heat down to medium and cook for about another 8 minutes. You don’t want to see any standing liquid, but the soupcous shouldn’t be dry. Fluff the mixture with a fork and let it sit until it finishes absorbing the liquid and cools down, another 5-10 minutes.
Then serve! David advises: “Enjoy with caution. Don’t burn that tongue!”
This meal hit the spot for me – it was more substantial, without being too hard on my stomach. Of course, you don’t have to be sick to cook this dish. I think anytime you can have a meal that’s warm and takes less than 20 minutes to cook, it’s a good thing to keep in your cooking arsenal.
Update, later on 6/3: While I’m a stove-top man, David likes to cook soupcous in the microwave, which requires one fewer pot. He writes, “Pour can in microwave-safe cup or bowl; mix in couscous; cover with a microwave-safe plate; cook 3-5 minutes depending on microwave power; let stand for 8 minutes for the couscous to absorb liquid; eat. That way you only have one dish to clean.”