Sam Talbot offers his special recipe for Israeli couscous.
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Special Side Dishes
Featured Pro: Sam Talbot Category: Cooking Time: 6:39
SAM TALBOT: Have you ever found yourself wondering what side dish to actually serve because you’re tired of serving and eating the same old stuff? If so, then I’ve got your answer – couscous. We’re going to talk about the different kinds and, of course, more importantly, how to cook it.
So first we’re going to take a little bit of chicken broth and some almond milk. We’re going to pour it right into this pan here. This is going to be our cooking – steaming liquid, actually. So we’re going to turn this on high and bring it up to a boil.
Now we have our veg for our couscous. So we have a little bit of fennel. We have some scallion, some garlic, some pine nuts and some raw yellow onions. So for the scallion, we’re just going to discard the stems here and we’re just going to slice all the way up. You can use the whole thing except just that bottom little woody end. You just want to discard it there. All right, we’re going to set these aside.
Then we’re going to go into our fennel. So we take the whole fennel and you discard the stems there, cut it in half, and then we’re just going to core it. All you do is take the tip of your knife, just make a little bit – little incision there, little triangle, pop it out, same thing. We’re going to cut these guys in half.
So now that we’ve cut them in half, we’re going to lay them flat and we’re just going to do a nice, slow and simple julienne. All right, so that’s enough of those two. Now we’re going to take a little bit of olive oil, going to get our pan nice and hot. We’re just going to stream in a little bit of olive oil there, just a coat, just to sheen the bottom of the pan.
So our pan’s nice and hot, almost to the smoking point. And we’re going to start with a little bit of raw yellow onion, going to get them in there, going to open them up a little bit, going to get our garlic in there. So we have our onions and our garlic going in the hot pan, and now we’re going to go for our Israeli couscous.
So the difference between regular couscous and Israeli couscous is that these guys look like little pearls. They’re nice little spheres. And the smaller couscous is a lot grainier, cooks a lot faster, and really easy to fluff with a fork. So we’ll get into that a little bit later too.
So our onions and garlic are going. We have our pan on high heat here. Now we’re going to take our pine nuts – tons of different varietals of pine nuts. The Italian kind tends to be a little bit more expensive, a lot more flavorful. Then you have the Chinese pine nut, which is, you know, a little bit more economical but it doesn’t have that same pop as the Italian one.
So we’re going to take our Italian pine nuts in there, toast those a little bit. Now coconut. Coconut is a great addition to couscous. You know, couscous is like a sponge. It absorbs any flavor that you really add to it. So we’re going to toast our coconut in there, just dried coconut, give this a nice little toss. Our pine nuts are toasting. You can really smell the onions. Now we’re going to hit it with our fennel. We’re going to break that up a little bit; our scallion.
So we’re going to season it with a little black pepper, some sea salt. We’re going to cut one lemon in half and juice it. Obviously we’re not going to get any seeds in there. This is almost acting like if you were to use white wine or some – maybe a little vinegar, some type of acid. It’s going to get all the good stuff that’s been left on the bottom of the pan there and incorporate it into the dish. It’s going to cut through that creaminess of the almond milk too. It’s going to really open it up.
All right. So you can see our ingredients there, nice and toasted. The couscous is already plumping. Our almond milk and chicken stock is about to boil. So the next step is the most crucial step. So we’re going to take our bowl here and our wooden spoon. We’re going to loosen all that up and right into the bowl.
Now we’re going to take our boiling almond milk and chicken broth, give it a stir. We’re going to pour that right into the couscous, stir it maybe once or twice. Then very quickly you're going to take your plastic wrap and you’re going to steam it. So we’re going to seal it right off like that.
Now, if you’ve done this correctly, you should see your bowl, your glass bowl, whatever you have it in, a silver mixing bowl. The plastic wrap should immediately start to fog up, and it’s going to sit in there for about 10 to 15 minutes. Right when you peel the plastic, you can fluff it one time with a fork, add a splash of olive oil, a little lemon zest if you want, but it’s pretty much good to go right then and there.
All right, because I was really excited about showing you guys the final product, I had some cooking, right? So this one has been steaming for about 15 minutes. We’re going to peel the top off there. Man, I wish you guys could smell that. The garlic is beaming through there. You can really get the coconut.
We’re just going to take a little splash of olive oil here one time. We’ll take our fork to fluff it and we’re just going to mix this guy up a few times, really gently. You don’t want to break the balls up. You want to leave everything nice. You know, this dish has a lot of flavor and a lot of texture going on there. We’re going to stir it like this, just spoon it right into our bowl. Look at that fennel just popping out of there.
All right. So there you have it, Israeli couscous with some fennel, some toasted pine nuts and some coconut. You know, I hope this dish provokes you to go out there, get some new ingredients, try some things that you're normally not used to, and get a real wow factor from your guests. Trust me.