Saturday, February 11, 2006

Israeli Couscous with Lamb and Acorn Squash (plus bonus drink recipe!)

Query: Is Israel the Texas of the Middle East? Because their couscous is huge. Absolutely super-sized. Come to think of it, though, the similarity pretty much ends there.

Anyway, I bought it on a whim, and regular readers will not be surprised to hear that when the snow started in Washington this weekend, all I had in the house was a packet of ground lamb and acorn squash. And gin.

First, make your drink. I made this up, and I'm calling it a Mandarin Highball unless someone suggests something better. Very simple: Open a can of mandarin oranges. Pour their juice into an ice-filled cocktail shaker, along with a shot or two of gin and a splash of tonic. Shake well. Pour into a martini glass, and garnish with mandarin orange slices. Sip while endlessly stirring couscous:

***
Israeli Couscous with Lamb

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, warm over medium-high heat:
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Add and quickly brown:
1 pound ground lamb

Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon, preserving as much fat as possible. Set aside. Reduce heat, and (in the remaining fat) saute until very soft and starting to brown:
1 large onion, diced
2-3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of the knife

Turn the heat back to high and add:
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cinnamon stick
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook until spices are fragrant, about 2 minutes.

From here on, we're basically using the same procedure you'd use to make risotto. So, add:
1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous (also called super couscous, maftoul, or pearl couscous)

Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring, to toast the couscous.

Have ready:
6-8 cups stock, white wine, or water (I used lamb stock, which is best. The Human Vacuum made it by boiling the hell out of some leftover bones from a leg of lamb)

Pour in 2 cups of the stock, and cook over medium heat until most of the liquid is absorbed. Continue to add the stock slowly (about a cup at a time), allowing all the liquid be almost completely absorbed each time. When you add the last cup of stock, put the browned lamb back into the pot, and add:
3/4 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
and/or
3/4 cup raisins, golden or regular

Right before you're ready to serve, stir in:
1 cup toasted pine nuts (just toast them in a dry pan on high heat for a few minutes)

Serve topped with acorn squash and mandarin oranges (below), and yogurt.

***
Acorn Squash with Mandarin Oranges

Before you start the couscous, cut a small acorn squash in half and remove the seeds. Place the squash, cut side down, in a pan with half an inch of water in the bottom. Bake in a 425 degree oven for about 40 minutes. When the squash can be easily pierced with fork, remove it from the oven. Let it cool slightly, then scoop out the orange insides, discard the skin, and mash with 1-2 Tablespoons butter and a small can of mandarin orange segments (or, failing that, brown sugar). If you're feeling really adventurous, sear the mandarins in a hot skillet before adding them to the squash.

18 comments:

Jennifer said...

Eeeek! It looks fabulous, Katherine!
I love, love the new decor.

This cous cous looks pretty fantastic too (and tremendous--I've never seen any that big!)

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viagra said...

I loved the Israeli larger pearl couscous when I worked on an archaeological dig near Haifa. But one of the Israelis I worked said it was "poor man's food." Sometimes the best things are peasant dishes.

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