Monday, June 22, 2015

Using-up Greens: Israeli Couscous With Chicken and Greens

For those of you who live in New England and have gardens or subscribe to a Farm Share, this time of the year is all about greens. MOUNDS and MOUNDS of greens.  Salad greens, bitter greens, kale, swiss chard, and so on.  It comes fast and it comes in plentiful.  I usually plant three 4-packs of lettuce seedlings each year and they all mature at once and threaten to bolt to flower.  Truth be told, I usually end-up giving half away to friends.  However, I'm always looking for recipes for the other half.

This recipe is a good one for those hardier greens that can stand-up to a little cooking like swiss chard, spinach, or kale.  I happened to make it with escarole, a slightly bitter green leaf lettuce in the endive family.  As I've mentioned in the past, it's really popular in soup around here.  However, some nice mature spinach or swiss chard would stand-in nicely.

The bulk of this dish is Israeli Couscous, sometimes called Pearl Couscous.  It's very different from the regular couscous that you're probably used to.  It's basically small toasted pearls of pasta, a little larger than tapioca pearls, and it cooks-up smaller than a baby pea.  Most grocery stores stock it, but if you have trouble finding it, you might try Orzo or Ancini de Pepe.

Israeli Couscous With Chicken and Escarole (or Greens)

Note: I'm going to cross a line here and say that it's okay to use powdered chicken bouillon here.  *GASP*  I know...  This is one of those rare occasions where the salty yellow-colored stuff actually does your dish justice.  However, I've made it with homemade stock and it works just as nicely, if not a little stickier from the natural gelatin.

2-3 large handfuls of greens, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups Israeli Couscous
2 1/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 onion, finely minced
2 medium carrots, sliced thinly
1 medium boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1) In a large saute pan that has a lid, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat.  Add cubed chicken and saute until the chicken begins to brown a bit.

2) Add more oil if needed along with the carrots, onions, and a small pinch of salt.  Saute until the vegetables begin to soften.

3) Add the couscous and a more oil if needed.  Stir constantly, sauteing until the couscous is lightly toasted.  It can begin to brown a little, but do not burn it.

4) Quickly add all of the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, reduce to low, cover, and let simmer about 10-12 minutes.

5) In the last 2-3 minutes of cooking when the liquid is almost gone, add all the greens and cover the pan so they will wilt.  Once they've wilted a bit, stir them into the couscous.  If things start sticking, add a little water to loosen it up.

6) Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve immediately.  A good sprinkle of good Parmesan cheese on top of each dish wouldn't hurt.

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