Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vaguely Italian Couscous with Artichokes and Dried Tomatoes

It's weird how little I talk about couscous.  Couscous means quick, easy, vegetarian dinner here.  So we were having one of those nights where you sit on the couch and go back and forth with, "I don't know, what do you want to eat?" And I listed off ingredients we had handy and Sous Chef Brian was like, "Couscous!  With artichokes! And spinach!"  All irritatingly enthusiastic, and I was like, "Ok, with sundried tomatoes?" And he was like, "Yeah!" All irritatingly enthusiastic.   And ten minutes later, we had dinner.  Couscous is what we do around here when we're dangerously close to saying, "There's nothing to eat."  Are there veg in the freezer?  Is there couscous?  There's dinner. 

Couscous is not some mysterious grain, like quinoa, though we tend to use the two interchangably around here. Couscous is just pasta.  Tiny pasta.  I like to imagine someone taking a handful of spaghetti and chopping it into tiny bits, but that probably has nothing to do with how couscous is made.

There is just one trick to couscous, and it's super important.  Don't cook it in water.  That's boring.   Sure, it's pasta, and you cook your fettuccine in water, but you also put sauce on your fettuccine.

Other than that, do what you want, it's couscous.  Use the veg you have, and the herbs you have, and go to town.  Get your liquid boiling, add your couscous, turn off the heat, move the laundry from the washer to the drying rack and eat dinner.  Easy.

We had just made vegetable stock, so I had that handy.  Veg stock is awesome for couscous.

To make six servings of couscous and veg, for dinner tonight and lunches throughout the week, start with two cups of stock.

Gather your veg.

I started with frozen artichoke hearts, chopped up.

And mystery greens.  This is frozen arugula, but I had intended to find spinach or chard.  The freezer is getting a little sad, and the summer's goodness is pretty much gone.

And I had soaked some dried tomatoes in hot water to plump them.  They actually weren't "sundried" tomatoes, they were just "dried tomatoes" from Margerum's.  They weren't quite raisin-dry, they were more moist to start with and it seemed like they had more flavor in the end.  I soaked them in about a half cup of near-boiling water while I got the rest of the food together, so maybe 5 minutes.  I chopped those up and added them to the stock and veg, with their soaking water, which was full of tomatoey goodness. 

I added some oil and garlic and basil.

And brought it all to a boil.

Added the couscous, covered the pot and turned it off. 

After about 5 minutes, I stirred it a bit and added black pepper

and Parmesan.

There's no light above my stove, so staring into a pot is just going to be dark.

10 minutes later it's tangy with the tomatoes and the parm, and creamy, especially with the artichokes.  But you can use whatever veg are crowding your fridge and freezer. 

This recipe is cross-posted at the blog for the South Philly Food Co-op, whose mission is to open a member-owned cooperative grocery store that provides affordable and nutritious food to all residents of South Philadelphia while empowering the local community through sustainable practices, food-centric education, outreach, and community building.  

Become a member-owner (like me!) by filling out the application here.

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Couscous with Artichokes and Dried Tomatoes
Anything can go in couscous for a quick and easy dinner, but these are some of my favorite flavors
  • 1.5 cups Couscous
  • 2 cups Vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup Very hot water
  • 1/4 cup Sundried Tomatoes
  • 1.5 cups Frozen (or other non-marinated) artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup Blanched or frozen greens (spinach, chard, arugula)
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Minced garlic
  • 4 teaspoons Minced basil
  • 1/4 cup Grated parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon Black pepper
Soak dried tomatoes in very hot water. Set aside. Defrost and chop vegetables.Add stock (mine is unsalted), oil, artichokes and greens to a large pot. Add dried tomatoes and soaking liquid. Heat to a boil.Add couscous, garlic and basil. Stir. Turn off heat. Cover. Let sit 5 minutes. Add cheese and black pepper. Stir. Serve warm or cold.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6 servings

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