making food from anywhere, with anything

spring is on its way…


Good evening everyone.

It feels great to still see the sun at 6:30 in the evening.  The tree below the window next to me is budding and the grass is definitely coming back to life.  Flowers are peaking out of the ground, and birds are slowly coming back (yes, we get the occasional non-pigeon bird).

Although it was tempting to grab a burrito on my way home from the gym and eat it somewhere outside, I came home and made a big pot of Israeli couscous.  If you buy the small-grained couscous in a box with those seasoning packets, you’ll likely be a little surprised at the look of Israeli couscous.  Its grains are larger, and it’s often called pearl couscous.  It may be used as a rice substitute, or you can do as I did and make a meal out of it.

Israeli couscous

Ingredients:

About 1 1/4 cup of Israeli couscous (I just used the rest of the bag I had)

1/2 lime

1/2 lemon

1 tbsp dried cilantro

1/2 tbsp dried parsley

1/2 tbsp cajun seasoning

1 smoked chile pepper, cut in half

1/2 onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

1. Chop the onion and mince the garlic.  Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  When fragrant, add the onions and saute until browned.  This will take 5-7 minutes or so.  If your pan gets too dry, add more olive oil.

2. Meanwhile, a good ratio to keep in mind.  For 1 cup of couscous, boil 1 and 1/4 cup of water.  I had a little over 1 cup of couscous, and so I eyeballed the amount of water.  In a saucepan, let the water come to a boil and add the couscous.  Bring it back down to a simmer.  Cover for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Just like cooking rice.

3. Once the onions are browned to your liking (feel free to go all out and caramelize them, I was going to but I grew impatient), add the garlic and the chili pepper.  It helps to cut the chili pepper in half to expose the seeds and veins to the onions and garlic.  All the heat is in the pepper, and that’s what you want.  Add your cilantro, parsley, salt and pepper at this point also. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat.

4. Uncover your couscous when it’s done and stir in the onion mix.  Combine well.  Squeeze some lime juice and stir again.  Add more salt and pepper, as necessary and mix that through.  If you want more heat (I did), add some cajun seasoning.  This is a seasoning blend I picked up from the store.  If you don’t have it, here is some idea of what is in it.  Add some lemon juice and maybe 1/2 tbsp more olive oil, and mix yet again.

At this point, you can do a few things.  You can serve it as it is, you can let it come to room temperature, or you can set it in the refrigerator and let it sit in the lemon and lime juices for a while.  It’s great hot because the warmth of the food enhances the kick from the chili.  It’d probably be better cold, though, because it would have an opportunity to marinade in the juices and oil. I sprinkled a little feta cheese on top of my first helping.  The saltiness of the feta was perfect with the acidity of the lemon and lime juice, plus it offset the heat of the pepper a little.  And the couscous was so tender, unlike how it came out the first time I cooked it (it was a soggy, unappetizing mess).

So there you have it.  A very easy and healthy meal/side dish.  Fun nutrition facts: couscous is so great because it’s loaded with complex carbohydrates (which means it won’t send your blood sugar skyrocketing), and even has a fair amount of protein to boot.

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