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Cooking from the Pantry: Israeli Couscous

If you’re not already sitting in your car on your way to your Memorial Day weekend destination, you’re probably making your weekend grill plan. Usually, I’d be thinking burgers, maybe ribs, and mac salad, but not everyone around here eats mayo (I know – it erases practically an entire food group).

The other night we ordered pizza from Flying Pie (their Stromboli rocks!) and you’ve gotta have salad with pizza, right? This started out in my mind as an orzo salad…but then I discovered the pantry gremlins had made off with my orzo. So it turned into an Israeli couscous with corn, zucchini and asparagus salad.

The little Israeli couscous pearls have a nice chewiness to them that I like a lot more than their fine-grained brethren. You can see what you’re getting.

What’s great about this recipe is that it’s adaptable to what you’ve got on hand. Do a balsamic vinaigrette instead of citrus. Chiffonade (can that be a verb? I’m using it as a verb) some fresh basil and add that instead of parsley (or in addition to parsley). Add some pine nuts (or whatever nut you like). If you’re grilling this weekend, hit the veg with a little olive oil, S&P, grill ‘em up, let it cool, chop it into 1/2 in. dice and you’re good to go.

One note (and it’s a biggie!): Be sure to let the green veg cool after cooking. You don’t want the acid in the vinaigrette to steal that beautiful, bright green color. I’ve done it. Grey/brown/green asparagus — it’s not pretty.

Have a great long weekend!

Israeli Couscous with Spring Veg
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
3 t. olive oil
1 1/3 c. Israeli couscous
1 ¾ c. chicken broth (or water)
1 small zucchini, cut into ½ in. dice
1 ear of corn, kernels cut from the cob
2 green onions, cut on the bias
2 T. dried cranberries
5-6 thin asparagus spears, woody stalks removed and cut into halves or thirds depending on your veg
2-3 T. Italian parsley, chopped

Citrus Vinaigrette
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tangelo (or orange), juiced
1 T. champagne vinegar
1T. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Heat 2 t. olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the couscous and cook until lightly browned. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 12-17 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.

In a sauté pan, heat remaining 1 t. olive oil over medium heat. Add the zucchini and sauté for 3-5 minutes until just softened. You don’t want them browned. Add the asparagus, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes until cooked through and bright green. Check them at 3 minutes, time will depend on the thickness of the asparagus. Let cool.

When the couscous is cooked, add it to a large bowl to cool. While still warm, add the lemon zest. Mix in corn kernels, zucchini, asparagus and green onions. Add dried cranberries.

For the dressing, whisk together the lemon and orange juices, vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the couscous and vegetables and mix until evenly distributed. Taste it. Season with additional salt & pepper to taste.

The couscous will absorb quite a bit of the dressing, you may need/want to hit it with another drizzle of vinegar.

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