|Israeli couscous with Tomatoes, Basil & Mozzarella|
The beauty of this dish (beyond aesthetics) is two-fold: it’s as simple as can be to make it, and the flavor is deeper than you’d expect from the simple list of ingredients. In fact, beyond the basic salt, pepper and oil, there are just 6 ingredients working together to create the magic here.
If you have all of these ingredients hanging around, the whole operation will take roughly 15 minutes from starting point to dining. You’ll want to start with boiling the water for the couscous (you can sub pearl barley if preferred as it has a similar texture and cooking time to the Israeli couscous (a.k.a. Ptitim) and move on to cooking the sauce.
|Nuuksio mid-February – not exactly picnic weather…but beautiful nonetheless.|
We had this a couple of nights ago: we’d spent the day outside and came home ‘starving’ and didn’t want anything too complicated. We’d slogged through what was left of the snow in Nuuksio, the Finnish national park just east of Espoo, and it was clear from the soft, slushy snow and the water dripping off of the trees that Winter had lost it’s grip, at least for now. We managed to get a fire going and cooked up a few lamp sausages to go with the red pepper hummus and carrot slices we’d brought with us; enjoyed a few brownies with tea, and made our slow and pleasant way back to the car through the wind and sleet. Ahhh. I think of no better way to spend a free day than outside, tromping around in nature, even if the weather is a little less than optimal.
|The picture says it all. Roasted Lamb Sausage. Kyllä! (That’s ‘yes’ in Finnish)|
Arriving home with growling stomachs turned out to be only a minor inconvenience once we dreamed up this dish: fewer than 20 minutes after arriving home, we were sitting down at the dinner table, grinding a little fresh pepper over the top of our dinner.
|Bringing the sunshine into Winter.|
Israeli Couscous with Tomatoes, Basil & Mozzarella
1 cup / 2 dl Israeli couscous / Ptitim (or pearl barley)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 shallots, diced
1 cup / 250g halved golden tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced
small bunch of basil, leaves picked, sliced thinly
1 ball fresh mozzarella, diced
salt and pepper to taste
Bring 1 quart/liter of water to boil in a medium-sized pot. Add the couscous and 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook until the couscous is al dente. (If using pearl barley, cook per manufacturer’s instructions.) Turn off the heat, remove 1 cup of pasta water, and drain the remaining water away.
While the pasta cooks, prepare the sauce. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and add the shallots. Cook over medium heat until the shallots are soft and just beginning to brown. Add the tomatoes all at once and cook for 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes begin to soften and slump. Add the garlic and cook one minute more.
Remove from heat and pour over 1/2 the reserved pasta water. Stir in the basil, mozzarella and drained couscous. Add more pasta water if the mixture seems too dry – you want there to be a little liquid broth at the bottom of the pan. Add salt and pepper to taste, divide between two bowls.
If desired, garnish with a few basil leaves, a couple of tomato halves, and piece or two of mozzarella, and serve with a spoon.