Famous Fridays is dedicated this week to a chef that I have admired for years: Sara Moulton. Not only are her recipes terrific and accessible for the home cook, but she has admirably managed to balance out an exciting and varied career along with being a mom, and we all know how hard that balance is to achieve! You may recognize her from her Food Network shows, "Cooking Live", "Sara's Secrets" and "Sara's Weeknight Meals". She was also the executive chef of Gourmet Magazine, has several cookbooks under her belt and now writes a weekly column for the Associated Press. She has a real no-nonsense humorous approach to cooking and though highly trained herself (she graduated with highest honors from the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park) makes food that even a beginner cook can tackle. Over the years, I've made many of her recipes and they've always turned out great! This Israeli Couscous with Mushrooms, Peas and Sweet Potato Sauce ( I know it's a long title, but all the components of this dish are so yummy that I didn't want to leave any out) is no exception!
What looks like little pebbles in a measuring cup is actually Israeli couscous. Have you ever cooked with it before? It's a religious experience!! Just kidding, but it is so much more delicious than the ordinary kind--chewier and nuttier somehow. I highly recommend using it!
Sara has you start the whole recipe by grating a sweet potato in the food processor, cooking it with a bit of butter and vegetable or chicken stock and then pureeing that mixture in the food processor again to make a terrific and unusual sweet potato sauce.
Then it's merely a matter of sauteeing an onion and some garlic together and adding the mushrooms. I used shitake but you easily substitute oyster, baby portabello or even ordinary white mushrooms. And if you buy them sliced, you can chop off (no pun intended!) 5-10 minutes of your prep time, which is a major plus for weeknight cooking!!
Once the veggies are soft, you add the couscous and more stock and let the mixture cook, covered, for another 10 minutes or so, leaving you with time to throw together a simple salad or any other easy side dish.
Then you just stir in some peas and the sweet potato sauce, season with a little salt and pepper and top with some grated Parmesan cheese if you like.
This dish is such a wonderful combination of flavors and textures. There's the chewiness of the couscous, the earthiness of the mushrooms, the sweetness of the onions and peas and the velvety smoothness of the sweet potato sauce covering everything. It's sort of like risotto, but a whole less time consuming and a perfect foil to all the frigid weather we're facing here in the Northeast. In fact, my only gripe is that it only made 4 portions and I was hoping for leftovers!! This will definitely be making it into my regular dinner repertoire!! Thanks, Sara!!
Sara's Israeli Couscous with Mushrooms, Peas and Sweet Potato Sauce-Famous Fridays
Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 25-30 minutes; Total Time: 35-40 minutes
1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces0
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/4- 2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock or broth
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 oz shitake mushrooms (or any kind you prefer), sliced
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 cup thawed frozen green peas
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Peel the sweet potato and grate in a food processor, using the shredding disc or grate by hand. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the grated sweet potato and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add 3/4 cup of the stock and cover the pan. Let simmer for 10 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender. Transfer the mixture back to the food processor fitted with the chopping blade (or to a blender) and puree till smooth. Set aside.
2. Using a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Lower the flame to medium-low and add the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes or until onion as softened. Then add the garlic and cook for about 1 more minute.
3. Add in the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and the mushrooms and cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring every now and then, until the mushrooms are barely tender.
4. Add the couscous to the pan and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly to toast it. Add 1 1/2 cups stock and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Then turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the pan and allow it to simmer for 10 minutes, until tender.
5. Add in the sweet potato sauce and the peas. Cook only until heated through, adding more stock if needed to make the texture more creamy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Serve as is or top with Parmesan cheese.
Note: Recipe adapted from Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners. I left out the fried sage leaves as a garnish.