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Monday, February 12, 2007

Easy Sunday Mid-Day Dinner

Since the beginning of the year, we have been assigned the absolutely ungodly church time of 3-6 pm. Since school-night bedtime is 7:30 pm, we decided that we should have Sunday dinner at 1 pm, and a lighter meal before bedtime. So fancy Sunday dinners requiring all-day preparation are out for the year. This week we had a very typical dinner for us--simple, one cooking pot, liked by both children: pearl couscous. We've had this in many variations, but lately I've been fixing it with sage-flavored sausage from Northwest Heritage Pork, and a mix of vegetables including butternut squash. Here's the master recipe, and pictures of how I made it this time:

meat (for our small family of four, usually 2 sausage links, two pork chops or two chicken breasts)
1 T olive oil
1 med to lg onion sliced thinly (I use a cheap mandoline)
1/3 lb pearl couscous
vegetables, appropriately cut (this week was half a large butternut squash, in 3/4-in cubes, a large carrot, cut in half and then sliced on a bias, a zucchini, cut in half and then into 3/8-in slices, and 1 cup of frozen petite peas)
2.5-3 C water or stock (the sausage is very flavorful so water is fine)
salt and pepper

Heat oil in large saute pan over medium-high heat until just starting to smoke, then brown meat. Don't stir it right away--the idea is to develop some fond (brown) in the pan for flavor.

After meat is brown, add onions (and carrots, if using) to pan, along with a little salt and pepper (if I'm using pork chops or chicken breasts, I remove them before adding the vegetables and add them back in at the simmer stage). Stir just long enough to separate onion into rings, then add pearl couscous. Saute a little more, trying to get the maximum amount of fond in the bottom of the pan (without burning it).

Then add a quarter-inch or so of water or stock to the pan, and scrape up the brown (I think a square-ended wooden spoon is ideal for this task). Add water to just cover (and butternut squash, if using), and a little more salt and pepper, and stir (then put the meat you removed, if you did, back in on top). Cover pan, raise heat, then lower after it reaches a boil to maintain a steady, fast simmer.

Stir occasionally, and add other vegetables at appropriate times (zucchini a minute or two before removing from the heat; frozen peas as you take it off the heat), and additional water or stock if necessary. If you do everything right, the squash should be done, the couscous should be done, and most of the water should be absorbed. Adjust seasonings and serve.



Blogger JMK said...

Sounds tedious! ;-)

February 12, 2007 at 6:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most of the best winter food is!

February 12, 2007 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger Swizzies said...

What is pearl couscous? I'm not familiar with that...?

Looks SO yummy!!

February 13, 2007 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pearl couscous is sometimes called Israeli couscous. It's basically little pasta balls, kind of like the acini de pepe used in frogeye salad. In fact, this Christmas when we were back East and I couldn't find pearl couscous to save my life (if you know of a place in Silver Spring where it can be found, by all means let me know!), I used orzo pasta instead. It turned out pretty good.

Here in the PRP I buy my pearl couscous at my local coop. It comes in 1-lb packages from a local outfit called Trikona Foods that also sells things like red lentils and Spanish saffron.

February 13, 2007 at 12:37 PM  

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