Saturday, September 17, 2016

Israeli couscous with squash blossoms

Israeli couscous makes a delicious side or an appetizer. Combined with squash blossoms, roasted garlic, Parmesan cheese and parsley, the creamy dish resembles a risotto, but ready in a lot less time. Squash blossoms are also sometimes called zucchini flowers, but they can come from any summer or even winter squash. They are the edible flowers of the squash plant and usually come in yellow and orange shades. Squash blossoms are soft, delicate, and have a mild taste. This is a healthy, delicate, colorful and elegant dish. The flowers add a sweet taste to the dish.

Israeli couscous with squash blossoms

1/2 cup Israeli couscous
8 zucchini blossoms
8 large cloves of garlic with skin ( or 1 whole head of garlic)
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons good quality extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese pieces
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Peel and discard the papery outer layers of the whole garlic bulb, leaving intact the skins of the individual cloves of garlic. Using a sharp knife, cut 1/4 to a 1/2 inch from the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic.
  2. Place the garlic head in a piece of foil large enough to wrap it. Drizzle 2  teaspoons of olive oil over the exposed head. Cover the bulb with aluminum foil and place it on a baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack for 25-30 minutes, or until the cloves feel soft when pressed. If the cloves are small you might need less time. Check in the middle of baking to ensure the garlic is not turning dark brown as they will dry out. Once soft, remove and keep aside.
  3. Put the pine-nuts in a dry skillet and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden in spots, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a small saucepan bring 3/4th cup of water to a boil. Add the couscous with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and bring to a boil once again. Reduce heat to simmer, cover the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes as per instructions on the box. The water should be completely absorbed. If there is excess water, drain the water. 
  5. While the couscous is boiling, prep the blossoms. Gently open the petals and check for bugs, as you might find a lingering insect or even a bee in there — you can turn it upside down and give it a gentle shake. Next, remove any pistil or stamen by using your fingers to snap them off. Give the blossoms a rough chop and place them at the bottom of the serving dish. 
  6. Once the couscous is ready, remove from the pan and lay it over the chopped blossoms. The heat from the couscous will help to cook the blossoms. In a small bowl, squeeze out the garlic from the roasted cloves to get about two tablespoons of garlic paste (balance can be used for toast), and blend it with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1/8th teaspoon salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Toss the couscous and blossom mixture with the roasted garlic mixture. Now gently mix in the lemon zest, bits of Parmesan cheese and the toasted nuts. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and it is ready to serve.
Serves 2 as a side

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