Friday, August 8, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Israeli Couscous with Black Lentils, Corn, Mushrooms, and Pecans

I have had a bag of Israeli couscous sitting in my pantry for a long time, and decided it was finally time to use it.  I have never made this type of couscous before, so I had to find a recipe first.  I ended up using ideas and ingredients from three different recipes to get the flavors I had in mind.  My recipe is mainly based on one from Martha Stewart, but I was craving more exotic flavors and I was not interested in serving avocado on top.  I also wanted to use black lentils instead of black beans because I had some left over from a previous recipe, and also because I thought the smaller size and firmer texture would be a better fit with the small and chewy pearls of couscous.  A recipe for an orzo salad and one for an Indian Street Corn Salad gave me the inspiration I needed, and this recipe is the delicious result.  For me this is mainly a side dish, but it also works as a light main dish, especially when topped with some crumbled queso fresco.

Israeli Couscous with Black Lentils, Corn, Mushrooms, and Pecans

For the couscous:
3/4 C. Israeli couscous
1 T. olive oil
1 1/3 C. water
1/4 tsp. salt

For the lentils:
1 C. black lentils
4 C. water
1/4 tsp. salt

For the vegetables:
8 oz. sliced white or cremini mushrooms
2 tsp. olive oil
1 small bunch scallions, whites and greens sliced separately
1 1/2 C. fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 C. chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 lemon, halved

In a medium saucepan, sauté the couscous in 1 T. olive oil until toasted and fragrant, about 4 minutes.  Add 1 1/3 C. water and 1/4 tsp. salt, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Set aside.

Rinse the lentils and place in a large pot with 4 C. water and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are tender.  Drain and set aside.  Add 2 tsp. olive oil to the pot and sauté the mushrooms until golden brown, about 5 minutes, adding a bit more oil if the pot seems too dry.  Season with salt and pepper, then remove from the pot and set aside.  Pour 1 tsp. olive oil into the pot, then add the sliced white parts of the green onions plus the corn.  Cook until the onions are soft and the corn starts to brown, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Add the mushrooms to the corn mixture, then stir in the couscous, lentils, pecans, and the rest of the green onions.  Add the seasonings, then squeeze the juice from the lemon halves into the pot.  Mix thoroughly.  Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed, and add olive oil, 1 T. at a time, if the dish seems dry.  For the best flavor, serve warm (once refrigerated, reheat it in the microwave).  Serves 6.

Note: I used a total of about 1 tsp. salt in this dish, but I prefer my food undersalted, so feel free to season with more salt to your own taste if necessary.  You can replace the black lentils with a 15-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed.  Feel free to increase or decrease any or all of the spices as you see fit, or omit any you don't like (I think I might double the amounts next time for more intense flavor).  Also, some added chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, and/or mint would not be amiss here.

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