Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Isa & Terry's Israeli Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots

Happy Spring, readers! Here's hoping you had a pleasant holiday, be it Easter, Passover, or whatnot.

For Easter this year, I was graciously invited to Gwen's house for a traditional-style supper. We had a full table with tons of delicious items created by the lovely Gwendelyn herself. I can only claim to one small item on the table, and I'll tell you about it here: Israeli couscous with pistachios and apricots. It's a delightful dish that I've made a time or two before, and it's straight out of my favorite cookbook, Veganomicon. Hope I don't get sued for re-posting, but it's just too good not to share. (So copyright people? Don't sue me, please! This belongs to Terry Hope Romero & Isa Chandra Moskowitz. )

This dish calls for Israeli couscous, which some of you may not be familiar with. So, we'll discuss a bit first. This is a larger version of your run-of-the-mill couscous, and it behaves a bit differently as well. I have grown to adore it over the past few months because I like how nicely it traps in the flavor of whatever you're cooking it in. Personally, I'm pretty addicted to the toast-and-broth method, as in toast the little buggers in some olive oil til they're brown then cook them in vegetable broth instead of water. They get a great color and flavor from this technique that adds some pizazz that regular couscous just can't deliver.

So on to the recipe.


2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups Israeli couscous
2 1/2 cups water
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
zest from one lime
1/4 chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped to the size of raisins (see photo below)
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
juice from 1/2 lime

Detail of how I chopped the apricots.

Begin by preheating a big pot or pan over medium low heat. Place your garlic & oil in the pan and let them sizzle for about a minute. Add the couscous and toast, stirring often, until they're nice and brown. It may not be even, but that's ok. Some of them will probably be a bit darker than others. It's only natural.

Pour in your water next, it's going to make that awesome sizzly scaldy sound. I love that sound. Then, toss in the cinnamon stick, cumin, cardamom, pepper, salt, and lime zest. Raise the heat a bit, and bring to a boil. Once it gets going, lower it down to a simmer and cover.

Let it work for about 10 minutes, or until most of the water is absorbed. Then, add 2 tablespoons of the mint, the apricots, pistachios, and lime juice. Stir, cover again, and cook for about five more minutes, or until it looks like this:

Remove the cinnamon stick (yeah, eating that might not be so pleasant), and transfer to your serving vessel. Garnish with the remaining mint. Delightful.

This dish has a wonderful flavor and texture, and goes great along side almost anything.

For note, you can absolutely make this dish with regular couscous. I actually did the very first time I made it, because to be honest, I had no clue what Israeli couscous was (part of me thought Isa and Terry were yanking my chain). The texture is obviously very different, but it's delightful nonetheless. It's fluffier and feels a bit lighter. So do what you want! Be creative. Unlike me, who didn't change a thing about this recipe. Maybe it was just perfect to begin with.

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