Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spiced couscous

This went along with the previously mentioned green beans and the not-yet mentioned flank steak in our dinner the other night. Melanie, Jeremy and Ali were all over and it was fun--especially as Melanie brought her mom's chocolate pound cake and Ali brought over chocolate-caramel covered matzoh. I'm always excited when other people bring desserts--it's just not something I do well, in case y'all haven't noticed. Anyway, Jeremy was sad that this was small-grain "normal" couscous, rather than the large pearl couscous that I usually make, but I thought it was a better accompaniment to the pan-mediterranean style dinner that I had going on, so he just had to deal with it. This is a very highly flavored, pretty side dish with a subtle Morrocan/Sicilian feel to it. It would be good either hot or at room-temperature, which makes me think it would be perfect to take on a picnic.

Start with 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup minced onion, ¼ cup minced carrot and one de-seeded and minced small serrano pepper. Any tiny slightly hot green pepper will do fine (jalapeno, cubanelle, whatever) just be sure that it is not large (about 2 inches long is fine) and make sure to de-seed it first. Saute in the butter-oil mixture until tender, then clear space in the center of the pot and add 1 teaspoon chile powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon cumin to bloom in the oil. "Blooming" your spices in heat is the best way to bring out their full flavor and potential--mostly in spice mixtures like curry powder or chile powder. What it does is release the oils and intensifies the flavor of the spice, which they do not get the opportunity to do when you just dump them into a liquidy mixture. They need full contact with a hot pan. Anyway, heat your spices and mix them in with the sauteeing vegetables, then add ½ teaspoon tumeric and 1 ¼ cup couscous (I'm just guessing on the additional ¼ cup part, all I know is that I had a little bit left in the container so I just added it. Definitely at least a cup though). Mix everything well together and add 1/3 cup golden raisins and 1 ¼ cups chicken stock, bring to a boil, cover, and turn off the heat. Let it steam covered and off-heat for 5-8 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon each minced cilantro and mint. You can use parsley instead if you want, I just happened to have these in my fridge. Fluff the couscous with a fork, mix in the juice of 1 lemon and serve hot or cold.

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