Sunday, January 27, 2013

Israeli Couscous Salad

Cruising the grocery aisles recently, I came across Israeli couscous and I was thrilled. (Clearly, I'm easily entertained.) I remember a few years ago having a hard time finding just regular couscous in Bismarck's local grocery stores. To see something as seemingly obscure as Israeli couscous now is just cool. If you haven't tried it, Israeli couscous is pearl couscous, larger than regular couscous with a more chewy, toothsome texture.

I brined and roasted a wild turkey for Sunday dinner, but in the depths of winter my palate was craving some sunshine and brightness - enough roasted squash, give me mint and citrus, something fresh and light tasting. To think that I can create and enjoy this beautiful salad in the middle of winter in the middle of North Dakota - it's a tiny miracle. I'm a local food superfan, but I also appreciate the fact that I can find lemons, kalamata olives, and fresh mint in my local grocery store in January.

Frankly, I could've just eaten this salad as my entree, but the turkey was tasty too. If you're pairing this salad with meat, it would actually go better with a more spring-y protein, like a gorgeous piece of salmon or maybe even lamb, with the Middle Eastern flavors going on here.

I say yes to eating seasonally, yes to eating locally, but also yes to eating with diversity, trying new flavors and textures, experimenting, and allowing a little taste of sunshine break through on a cold winter afternoon.

PS - this is my 500th post! I can't believe it's been five years. Beside helping me find my way around my wild game and garden veg kitchen, this simple blog has become a beautiful little community for me of like-minded visitors and friends who inspire me every day. Plus, Rhubarb and Venison has opened up so many doors. I did not consider myself a writer five years ago, but today I find such joy and sense of accomplishment by writing on one little aspect of the rich food culture in my corner of the world. So thank you - friends and strangers, long-time readers and new, thanks for visiting. Here's to the next 500 posts! 

Israeli Couscous Salad
From The Cook and The Butcher cookbook by Brigit Binns. Do not skip toasting the almonds - in fact, I say toasty nuts are always better (insert your joke of choice here). Whether adding walnuts to brownies or almonds to a salad, toast the nuts for a few minutes; it makes a huge difference.

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbls. extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1 red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 and 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
2 cups veg or chicken stock or broth
Salt and pepper
2 blood oranges (ok to substitute regular navel oranges)
1/3 cup pitted brine-cured olives, such as kalamata, finely chopped
2 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbls. finely chopped mint
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

In a small skillet, heat 1 Tbls olive oil. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown, about 5 mins. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 Tbls olive oil. Add onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 mins. Add couscous and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 5 mins. Add stock, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat until couscous is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 8 mins. Transfer couscous to large bowl and stir in remaining 1/4 c. olive oil; let cool slightly.

Using a sharp knife, peel the oranges, removing all the bitter white pith. Working over a bowl, cut in between the membranes to release the sections into the bowl. Fluff the couscous and fold in orange segments, olives, lemon juice, mint, almonds and parsley. Season with salt and pepper if needed and serve.

1 comment:

corporatepeon said...

I love Israeli couscous but never cook it well when following the "on the box" directions. Maybe I'll try it again, in a new way, inspired by your success!