Israeli Couscous Primavera : Cool Food For Hot Days


As the heat wave continues and my little garden displays its fruitfulness in a riot of cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas I’m faced with 3 dilemmas: argh, why does everything ripen at the same time??, what can I cook that won’t make the house an uninhabitable heat box, and will it be interesting enough that I’d make it again for the next luscious produce wave? This recipe is a modification of one from Bon Appétit cuz like all cooks I have a moral imperative to tinker with the tastes to suit my jaded palate. I find that most recipes have more oil/fat in them than you need and actually taste better with less; not so heavy and oily. The lemon vinaigrette with a touch of honey and the nutty saltiness of shiromiso (white miso paste) lends a brightness to the starchy, chewy Israeli couscous and brings out the sweetness of those cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas you’ve so loving grown (or brought home from the farmer’s market ;)) What makes this recipe so versatile is you can use whatever veggies strike your fancy/are in season making it something that you can eat summer or winter (roasted kabocha squash, chickpeas, and kale anyone?) This is also a good alternative for people like my hubby who have difficulty digesting onions or other members of the allium family (ie, shallots and leeks) without sacrificing flavor. FYI: an estimated 30% of individuals in Western and African countries are considered to have fructose malabsorption causing the abdominal pain, bloating, and gassiness associated with eating high fructose foods like onions and apples. You might also be able to convert some carnivores into herbivores as well since the savory bite of the vinaigrette coupled with the chewy texture of the couscous makes you feel like you’re not missing out on anything.

A few quick tips to make life easier cuz who doesn’t need that?
1) When zesting citrus fruit, make sure to just remove the outer colored skin and not the white pith which is bitter. I find a microplaner indispensable for this and if you like piquant, sharp, flavorful dishes or do a lot of baking you’ll be busting this baby out once a week.
2) I like garlic like most non-preternatural beings but I’m also lazy so I find that buying jars of crushed garlic saves soooo much prep time and since I live near Trader Joe’s it’s pretty economical too. Most jars will give you a conversion but 1 clove is basically 1 tsp of crushed garlic.
3) Finally, trimming and de-stringing (sure, that looks like a word) sugar snap peas is ridiculously easy. Just snap off the tip with your fingers and pull it across the flatter center edge like you’re unzipping a bag–most peas have a half moon-ish appearance and the tough “string” lies along the flat edge.

4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about the juice of one large ripe lemon)
1-2 tsp lemon zest (basically from one large lemon)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp (3 cloves) crushed garlic
2 tbsp shiro miso paste
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp honey

Mix together lemon juice, zest, 2 tbsp olive oil, garlic, miso, ground pepper, and honey in a small bowl till smooth. For you science fans out there this will form a creamy, thin emulsion. Set aside in refrigerator. This will make about 3/4 c vinaigrette leaving extra for salads or a nice zesty sandwich condiment.

Israeli Couscous

1+ 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 red bell pepper, cored, deveined, and julienned
1 c sugar snap peas, trimmed and strings removed
1/2 c green peas, fresh or frozen
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/3 c Israeli couscous (also called pearl couscous)
1 3/4 c vegetable broth (I like Better Than Bouillon Mushroom Base as it provides a lot of flavor without that watery, tinny taste found in many vegetable broths) or you can also use chicken broth for a richer flavor
1/4 c Parmesan, shredded

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over med-hi heat till aromatic but not smoking. Sauté bell pepper and sugar snap peas for 2 minutes–they should still be tender but crisp and vibrant in color. Add peas and cherry tomatoes and remove from heat (the residual heat will be plenty–if you’re using frozen peas add them to the sugar snap peas after 1 minute). Season with salt and ground pepper.

In another large skillet or sauté pan heat remaining 2 tsp of olive oil over med-hi heat till aromatic but not smoking. Add couscous and mix so oil is evenly distributed and brown couscous stirring occasionally ~ 1-2 minutes. The couscous will develop a golden brown color. Add broth and lower heat to keep liquid at a brisk simmer but not boiling and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes. If the couscous looks dry before ten minutes has passed add 1/4 c more broth. Uncover and taste a pearl, it should be soft but slightly chewy. Remove from heat and add vegetables and 2 tbsp of vinaigrette. Mix well. Add additional vinaigrette to taste. Sprinkle each serving with parmesan to taste. Makes 4 servings.

About Cam

Enjoying the hippie life in Portlandia :)

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