Israeli Couscous with Sautéd Squash, Roasted Tomatoes & Garlic

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I like comfort food.  Which usually means a mouthful of pasta.  I especially like it when it is small enough that I can simply scoop spoonfuls into my mouth.  Gosh, I hope that doesn't sound gross. But it is quite satisfying.  Which is why I love creating salads that fit that agenda.  As with my Orzo Salad, this Israeli Couscous dish has that same mouthfeel.  Flavor in every bite filled with the comfort of a pasta.  Small enough that it's easy to spoon, swallow and spoon again.  Oh, yeah, don't forget to chew.

I created this dish for a Ladies' Lunch for my Mom and the women's group at her condo.  They were gracious enough to allow me to cater the lunch for them, and I had a blast doing it.  I will post more about the entire meal but for now, let's focus on spooning some of this salad for your next lunch, dinner side dish or BBQ party.  When I came up with idea it was to satisfy what I thought the women would enjoy as well as a dish that would be easy to make given all the other items I was making.  What I didn't even realize at the time was that this Israeli Couscous plays off the same idea as my Garlic Rice with Sautéd Zucchini & Tomatoes.  I found that recipe as I was writing this one so I could share other zucchini ideas. And there it was, along with several others.

Apparently, there are a million ways to serve up zucchini.  So here's a quick reminder of a few I have experimented with and achieved success.  Try them out while the weather is zucchini friendly.
Zucchini Crudo with Shaved Parmigiano & Mint Oil
Zucchini Orzo Pie
Zucchini Carpaccio
Balsamic Bathed Carrots Wrapped with Zucchini
An Asian Twist to Zucchini Ribbons

Now back to the main attraction. This is one of those dishes that you can literally being cooking, cutting, sautéing all at the same time.  A multitasking wonder. So I have written the instructions in a way to be most efficient. 

Ingredients

1.5 cups Israeli Couscous
1 large zucchini, cubed
1-2 small yellow squash, cubed
1 medium shallot, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes, oven roasted
4-5 whole garlic cloves
2-3 T basil, chiffonade
1 c olive Oil
1 t coarse salt
1/2 t pepper
*Note: You can alter the couscous to veg ratio if you like more of one.  Totally up to you.

Slice the squashes lengthwise first. Then strips, then cubes.

Slice the squashes lengthwise first. Then strips, then cubes.

 

Instructions

1. Roast the grape tomatoes in 1/2 c olive oil with whole cloves of garlic.  Refer to the oil roasted recipe in my post The  Great Tomato Caper.

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2.  While the tomatoes roast, cut the zucchini, yellow squash and shallots and sauté them separately in oil. Season with salt and pepper, adding half the shallots to each batch, once they are partially cooked.  You don't want to add the shallots first as they will burn.

Nice little cubes all the same size so you get a piece in every spoonful.

Nice little cubes all the same size so you get a piece in every spoonful.

Zucchini cubed up

Zucchini cubed up

3. While the squashes are sautéing, cook the Israeli Couscous as you would any type of pasta, in a large pot of salted boiling water.  Cook until al dente.  Drain and set aside in a serving bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil so it doesn't stick and let cool.

Gorgeous pearls of pasta

Gorgeous pearls of pasta

4.  Once the tomatoes are done, remove the garlic from their skins and mash them with a fork and course salt.  Add 1/4 c olive oil, pepper to taste and whisk together.

Grapes tomatoes oven roasted in luscious oil with roasted garlic.

Grapes tomatoes oven roasted in luscious oil with roasted garlic.

Sweet and tender garlic.

Sweet and tender garlic.

Smash to create a paste.

Smash to create a paste.

5. It is best to mix the roasted garlic oil into the couscous while it is still warm so the flavors absorb, but you can mix it at room temperature, too. Be sure to thoroughly incorporate.
6. Chiffonade the basil (cutting them in strips) and add to the couscous.
7. Then add some of the juices from the roasted tomatoes, the tomatoes and sautéed squashed. Gently mix until combined.  Serve room temperature.

A bowl of goodness that is pure pleasure to eat spoonful after spoonful.

A bowl of goodness that is pure pleasure to eat spoonful after spoonful.

This is one of those dishes that is both hearty but light at the same time.  The couscous is a pasta so it does do the job of satisfyingly fill you up, but the lightness of the veggies make it feel summertime fresh, especially served room temperature or even chilled.  

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I made this out of love.
Love of pasta.
Love for my Mom.
Love to share with others.

 

Print Friendly Recipe

 

Zucchini Carpaccio

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Carpaccio refers to raw, thin slices.  Most people typically use this method for beef or fish. But why limit its focus.  The technique can be applied to any food really.  That's when I elected to employ its useful style to zucchini; both green and yellow. 

Once upon a time on a warm summer's day in the country, I had zucchini. AGAIN.
Another dilemma of what to do with this ubiquitous kinda bland veg. And so, the idea of creating a dish that would be fresh and cool given the heat of the day sparked the idea for carpaccio.  Slice it thin.  No need to cook it.  Add a zingy sauce and call it day.  

That is how this dish came to be. Out of sheer not wanting to turn on the stove or oven or eat anything hot.   I don't need to bore you with any more adjectives, adverbs or other fancy descriptions.  This is a simple once upon a time story, with a happy ending.  Now, down to the 'how to'.

Ingredients

1  zucchini, thinly sliced approx. 2 c
2 small yellow squash, thinly sliced approx. 2 c
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c red wine vinegar
1/4 c white wine vinegar
salt

 

Dressing
1-2 T honey (depending on your taste)
1/3 c fresh lime juice
1/3 c fresh lemon juice
1 T rice wine vinegar
1/4 shallots. minced
1.5 T mint, finely chopped
1.5 T basil, chopped
1+ tsp salt / 1/4 t pepper to taste

Instructions

1. First things first.  Thinly slice the red onions so they have time to pickle. I use a mandolin for this so I can cut them quickly, evenly and thinly. Next, combine the red and white vinegar with salt and submerge the onions.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the zucchini and dressing.

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2. Thinly slice both the zucchini and yellow squash using a mandolin.  Unless you have a sushi master skill of using a knife, the only real way to get these thin enough, and consistent, is to use a mandolin.  Sorry, sometimes it's just that way. I like to make sure that I am slicing them so they are round, not oval.  I just groove off the overall visual look. But go ahead and slice as you like, just as long as they are thin. Then begin to layer them.  Again, I like order and visual appeal. So my aesthetic is one color for each row in a circular fashion.  I overlap slightly as I go to create a wheel of green and yellow swirls. But lay them down in whatever fashion suits your style.

Round and round we go. Layer anyway you like. I like circles.

Round and round we go. Layer anyway you like. I like circles.

It looks neat and visually appealing... and mesmerizing.

It looks neat and visually appealing... and mesmerizing.

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3. Once that is done, make the marinade/dressing.  Combine the lemon and lime juices, vinegar with honey, shallots, mint and basil.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the entire dish and allow the dressing to settle in for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour to absorb and "cook" the zucchini.  Drain and add the pickled onion in the center.

The first couple of times I made this dish I used regular basil. This time around I had purple basil, so that's what I used.

The first couple of times I made this dish I used regular basil. This time around I had purple basil, so that's what I used.

Sometimes I start my circles with yellow squash, then zucchini. Other times the versus. I know, I live dangerously.

Sometimes I start my circles with yellow squash, then zucchini. Other times the versus. I know, I live dangerously.

The purple basil adds another color pop.

The purple basil adds another color pop.

Warning, this dish is tart and tangy. (Use more honey to balance the flavor to your palate. I like it tangy.)
Perfect for the summer.
Perfect for BBQ meats.
Perfect solution to not sweating over a stove. 
Another zucchini dilemma solved. 
Another happy ending.

When It's Hot... Jump into a Lettuce Boat

I don't know where you live but it's a scorcher right about now in NY.   We've been waiting for summer to really arrive and now it's officially a swamp.  Speaking of weather, I've been under it for some time now. So before this heat wave landed upon us (even though it's summer) I made a ginormous batch of soup.  I have been eating it for days. And since it was a ginormous quantity, I figured I would be enjoying it again and again as well as serving it to my hubby and sister.  But with the thermometer outside soaring damn near human body temp, I don't care how much soup I have left over. Frigging 95 degrees screams for something cooler.

I had some ideas. Well, I always have ideas.  Main one.  Use up the egads amount of tomatoes and basil I bought last week.  It's a fact that I am very easily enticed at the farmer's market by produce's beauty.  But in all fairness,  I bought them in anticipation of hosting guests for a Pizza Sunday Party. Those plans were foiled.  Which left me with more tomatoes and basil than two people can comfortably eat unless forced by some game show stunt. Since last week's basil-ed potatoes went over so well, I made another batch of that sauce and quickly got to figuring out the rest.

The abundance. Don't be fooled. That is only half the tomatoes and 1/3 of the basil I STILL HAVE!! (Plus some went into that ginormous soup. And don't forget to look at that beautiful blue bowl by  Miller Pottery

The abundance. Don't be fooled. That is only half the tomatoes and 1/3 of the basil I STILL HAVE!! (Plus some went into that ginormous soup. And don't forget to look at that beautiful blue bowl by Miller Pottery

I had romaine lettuce.  Perfect as boats to fill with good shit. (The heat made me curse.)
I had zucchini and yellow squash.  
I had hearts of palm and chick peas. Ever present in my pantry.
I had thoughts. (sometimes good; other times, well...)

Zucchini and Yellow Squash cubed.

Zucchini and Yellow Squash cubed.

Even though it was hot out, the zucchini and squash needed to be cooked in my opinion.  Reason: I just really wasn't feeling their raw essence for this dish.  Since it was cleaning day and the house was gleaming, no way was I going to make a mess of the stove.  In the oven went the squashes.  And a few tomatoes whole, too.  I roasted them at 400 degrees until nicely caramelized.

Oiled, salted and peppered for the oven roasting.

Oiled, salted and peppered for the oven roasting.

Everything else, cut up and ready.  I sliced up some more tomatoes raw.  One, because I had a ton, and two because I'm a fan of duality.  Warm tomatoes, cool tomatoes.

Once the  veggies were out of the oven, the only chore that remained; Assembly.  I don't need to hold your hand for this part, do I?  Take your leaf and stuff it with what you love. A little of this and little of that and drizzle some of that banging basil sauce a top.  (Chop up some leftover chicken, or toss in some tuna. Be creative.)

Assembly line. Fill your boats!

Assembly line. Fill your boats!

Light but satisfying.  Cool yet with just enough warmth to make it feel like dinner and not a snack.  Crap, I think I yanked this one out from nowhere, and hit it out of the park.  (The heat made me say that part, too.)  Jill and JC loved them. Yeah, I won't be eating soup.  I got me some leftover lettuce boats to my rescue.

When the weather is too hot to think.  Just jump in a boat and bring along whatever's in your kitchen.