When my friend, Michelle of Ms. enPlace, shared her version of Couscous with Tomato and Onion I knew right away I had to make it for myself! The concept of a couscous cake with a crispy, buttery, golden brown crust and a fluffy interior was so very appealing.
I rushed to the store for the ingredients, brought them home, and then began procrastinating. For days. For some reason the idea of inverting the couscous onto a plate with the hopes of transferring a perfectly golden thing of beauty was causing me stress. So I put it off. All week. Until today. As you can see, the couscous cake did fall apart when I inverted it. I'd like to tell you that I handled this in a classy way, but that would be a lie. After having a little bit of a hissy fit, I realized the couscous actually looked good a little broken up because it reveals the texture difference between the crusty exterior and the fluffy interior. Or at least that's what I told myself.
Either way, this dish is absolutely delicious. It's crispy, buttery, and fluffy with a very mild flavor making this a great side dish to serve with nearly anything you'd like. The next time I make this I'd probably add just a touch of minced garlic, but only because we love garlic. I will definitely be making this again!
Crispy Couscous with Tomato and Shallots
Adapted from Jerusalem
by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots (or one medium onion, chopped)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1-3/4 cups very ripe diced tomatoes
1 cup couscous
1 cup boiling chicken or vegetable stock
2-1/2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper, to taste
Notes: I decided to sub shallots in place of onions because I prefer the subtle flavor of shallots over onions. I wanted this to be a mild and kid-friendly dish that everyone would eat.
Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a nonstick pan about 8-1/2 inches in diameter and place over medium heat. Add the shallots (or onion) and cook for about 3-5 minutes, until softened but no colored. Stir in the tomato paste and sugar and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Cook down until you have a chunky looking tomato sauce, about 3 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, put the couscous in a shallow bowl, pour over the boiling stock, and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside for 10 minutes, then remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork. Add the tomato sauce and stir well.
Wipe the pan clean and heat the butter and the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted, spoon the couscous into the pan and use the back of the spoon to pat it down gently so it is all packed in snugly. (At this point, Ottolenghi's instructions say to cover the pan, reduce the heat to its lowest setting, and allow the couscous to steam for 10 - 12 minutes, until you can see a light brown color around the edges). I didn't really like the idea of covering the pan and trapping all that moisture so I decided to leave my couscous uncovered. I cooked it for about 10-12 minutes until it was golden brown on the edges. Use an offset spatula or a knife to help you peer between the edge of the couscous and the side of the pan; you want a really crisp edge all over the base and sides.
Invert a large plate on top of the pan and quickly invert the pan and plate together, releasing the couscous onto the plate. Serve warm or room temperature. Garnish with tomato, herbs, etc.
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