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Monday, May 26, 2014

Summery Side - Israeli Couscous with Scallions & Dried Cherries

Around this time each year, I get to thinking about new ways to zhush up an old favorite in our house - Couscous. Couscous is our standby summer side because it's a wonderful make-ahead dish that tastes great at room temperature and lends itself to all kinds of creativity. 
Israeli Couscous with Scallions & Dried Cherries, Photo:NK

I love that it feeds a crowd, and with the right accoutrements, I find it far and away more exciting than your everyday traditional pasta salad. 

With all those barbecues and summer parties around the corner (we'll tell you about our Memorial Day celebration very soon), you can never have too many ideas for potluck dishes. 

As far as types of couscous go, we strongly prefer Pearl Couscous, also known as Israeli. This larger variety holds up really well and just feels a bit more stick-to-your-ribs than its smaller-grained cousin (I should mention that "regular" cous cous is actually more a grain - semolina to be exact - than a pasta, per se). For more ideas and info, check out last year's special Couscous recipe HERE

I hope you'll also stick around for today's latest colorful twist on this scrumptious side. I used dried cherries and lots of scallions to create a tart and savory dish that ended up being quite satisfying (with tons leftover for later in the week). It also made a welcome accompaniment to my the tasty roast beef dinner my husband cooked up for me. 

Israeli Couscous with Scallions & Dried Cherries, Photo: NK
Here's how to make it:

Israeli Couscous With Scallions & Dried Cherries 
Serves 5-6

Ingredients:
2 Cups Dried Pearl aka Israeli Couscous (approx. an 8.8 oz box)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil, divided
2.5 Cups Free Range Organic Chicken Broth (or Vegetable Broth)
3 Ounces Dried Cherries, finely chopped
4 Whole Scallions, both white and green parts, thin sliced
1 Large Clove Garlic, finely minced
Lemon Juice, 3 squeezes - optional
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Lots of Black Pepper

Method:

1. In a large saucepan, toast the Couscous by swirling one Tablespoon Olive Oil in the bottom of the pan over medium heat. Add the dried Couscous and stir fairly constantly until the grains begin to become slightly golden but not black. This should take 2 or 3
Fast to prepare and feeds a crowd, Photo: NK
minutes but watch it closely to avoid burning. Pour the toasted Couscous into a bowl and set aside. Toasting brings out more flavor and makes the small, round pearls even more visually appealing. 

2. In the same large saucepan, bring Broth to a boil and add the Couscous. Turn flame down to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook about 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until Couscous is cooked through and the liquids have disappeared. Ideally it should still have some bite to it, and be somewhat al dente. 

3. Now add minced Garlic and remove from the heat. Place in the refrigerator to chill. This can be done a day in advance. 

4. When ready to finish, stir in the Scallions, Dried Cherries, three squeezes of Lemon Juice and the remaining Tablespoon of Olive Oil. Give it a good stir. Add the Salt a quarter teaspoon at a time so you can adjust it to your taste. Finish with ample Black Pepper. Stir again and store in the fridge until ready to serve. This will keep well overnight and for several days after. The flavors should have time to blend before serving as the definitely get better and better with time.

Enjoy! 

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