Wednesday, June 18

Soyrizo + Couscous = Success!

I've always been a little on the fence about couscous. Yes, it's easy to prepare, and yes, it can be delicious...but all too often, it's not. It's boring. No, I don't mean simple, which implies a certain stately elegance, but actually downright boring. Something about the fine, insubstantial texture, the lack of fat or flavor, and the general couscous-ness generally puts me off.

That all changed Passover 2008. I'm not Jewish, but I wish I was, and someday I might be. I often celebrate Jewish holidays vicariously through my various Jewish friends, namely one little Perrin (see tags, a.k.a. Penina, Penny, Jew, etc) whose younger sister is one of the very best chefs I know (at age seventeen, no less). Perrin went home for Passover and brought the (not quite kosher-for-passover) party back with her. There were roasted vegetables with salsa verde, herbed fish cakes with horseradish, wine-poached salmon, green bean salad with an apricot vinaigrette, very drunken charoseth, almond macaroons, mazel toffee (tasty enough to convert the most stubborn goyim)...and the most delectable couscous I have ever encountered.

I begged for the recipe -- I used every ounce of wit, charm, and cunning that I have -- but alas I haven't yet set my eyes on the hallowed words. I know there were pistachios, and I think apricots, and I'm sure the main seasoning was turmeric. A well-labeled Facebook album reveals the further addition of "dried figs, dates, red pepper, yellow pepper, and a lovely vinegarette [sic]" (what's in the lovely vinaigrette??) For now, I'm left guessing...


Here in Berkeley, I'm slowly settling into my new abode. Very slowly, since I'm hoping to move to San Francisco before the month is out. However, in the meantime I've taken notice of my rapidly dwindling checking account and vowed to eat in until I am once again gainfully employed -- reserving tomorrow, my birthday, for a visit to Chez Panisse, whatever the cost.

We visited the ever-impressive Berkeley Bowl and once we had regained our wits after wandering the seemingly endless aisles of foodstuffs we gathered enough ingredients to fuel our adventures. Remember my shopping list? Well, we didn't have quite the time, space, or funds to check everything off, but I did invest in my favorite staples: mustard, garlic, and lemons for seasoning; spinach, peaches, and mushrooms from the produce department; flatbreads and goat cheese; peanut butter; soy chorizo; and a six-pack of wheat beer that, upon reconsideration of our assets and the knowledge that our new roommates might contribute wine, I grudgingly returned while we were waiting in line. We invested in a few other delicacies from the produce and bulk food sections, and returned home triumphant, ready to COOK SOMETHING ALREADY. I don't use/record recipes, but here's a rough transcript of what I came up with:

Cmoore's Chorizo Couscous (for five -- it's a big house)
I believe the key to tasty couscous is, quite simply, fat. Don't skimp on the olive oil and flavorful add-ins like nuts, dried fruits, avocado, cheese, or, as in this case, soy-based chorizo, which is a wonderfully spicy contrast to the sweetness of apricots and steamed garlic.

2 cups semolina couscous (dry)
4 cloves garlic, minced (not crushed)
3 cups water
1 cube vegetable bouillon
A small handful dried apricots, chopped (10-12)
1 package soy chorizo
Cumin, dried dill weed, and cayenne pepper to taste
Olive oil
Optional: 1/2-3/4 cup crumbled feta

Salt couscous (1/4 tsp or so) and toss with garlic, cumin (maybe 1/2 tsp), and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large bowl -- it will expand! Place apricots, water, and boullion cube in a small saucepan set over high heat. Let boil; stir well to dissolve boullion and pour over couscous mixture. Stir with fork, cover (I used a kitchen towel held in place with a cutting board) for at least 15 minutes.

Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a wide, flat saucepan over medium heat. Add soy chorizo -- don't worry about shaping it into patties, but do try to create a flat, thin layer. Allow a dark crust to develop before stirring, then re-create a flat, thin layer. Do this several times until the chorizo has enough crunch to suit your taste. Stir roughly to create small chunks, then add to couscous. Season the mixture to taste: I probably used 1 tsp dill, another 1/2 tsp cumin, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and two good dashes of cayenne.

Serve with a green salad and maybe, like me, some very lemony sauteed asparagus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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