Risotto is one of the most well known dishes of the italian cuisine. There are many elements involved in making risotto and frankly making a risotto quickly is like making fat free butter. But there is no reason why we cannot replicate the taste, and the texture of the risotto in an alternative dish. The two basic structural elements of the risotto texture are the chewy, but cooked, rice, and a very creamy texture. The creamy texture, although there is the addition of the a little cream, come mainly from the rice. Rice… A quintessential class of a grain that literally changed the world. A grain that for centuries has been the power of an entire continent, the asian condiment that is, and there was no surprise that it took over the world. It is a commodity became a stable item in may different cuisines. I am happy to say that we already dealt with it in this blog with rice recipes. Today we will not.
Exactly. We are not going to use rice. We will use another quintessential grainy commodity to imitate the texture of risotto, but without going through the various steps involved in making the risotto. We are going to use Mediterranean pasta know as couscous. Although often couscous is regarded as grain it is actually made with semolina flour. In other variations it is made with ground barley or pearl millet or even corn meal. The flour is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hill of the hands to form small pellets, sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate, and then sieved. Any pellets which are too small to be finished granules of couscous and fall through the sieve will be again rolled and sprinkled with dry semolina and rolled into pellets. This process continues until all the semolina has been formed into tiny granules of couscous. These would then be dried in the sun and used for several months. Couscous was traditionally made from the hard part of the durum, the part of the grain that resisted the grinding of the relatively primitive millstone. In modern times, couscous production is largely mechanized, and the product is sold in markets around the world. It is the stable food ofMorocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Western Libya, and very common in other middle eastern countries. There is a special class of couscous, however, called also Ptitim, that is a much larger shape and is usually die formed that rolled. It was conceived and made during the austerity period in Israel, when the lack of rice posed a serious need, food depilation for the Mizrahi immigrants, for whom rice was a dietary staple. Due to the larger size and the high protein semolina flour can achieve similar results with rice. So you can see that the riceless risotto, is possible if you think outside the box (“What box?” as Arisa would have said.)
So let’s get started with the ingredients for this awesome dish (and quick)
- 1 cup of couscous
- 4 green onions
- about 1 cup of dried mushrooms.
- cheese (this one is smoked gouda, but blue cheese is much better)
- chipotle peper
- a shot of brandy (if you have apple brandy is so much better)
- ground cumin
- salt (smoked is better)
Start by chopping the chipolte paper in a bowl. If you want less smiley flavor or less spice, add it whole and retrieve it later.
Add the pack of the dried mushrooms.
Brink about three cups of water to boil…
The meantime start chopping the green onions.
I like to keep the green part separate.
When piping hot, add it in the bowl. Perfect timing. Let the n the water to soften and give out all the wonderful flavors.
Add the butter in the pan.
Add the onion
Add the cumin to let it roast for a while and give up all the cuminish aromas. This is the time to add the paprika if you want it more spicy…
By now the mushrooms should be done, so strain them and KEEP the water, it is going to be our cooking medium.
OOOOAAAAH mushroom liquor..
Add the mushrooms in the pot and let them go around a few times until you start smelling them.
When they have darken a bit, add the brandy and let the sizzle slowly subside.
Time to add the couscous…
Stir it in to coat it with the butter that has all these amazing aromas and flavors.
Add the cooking liquid and let it slowly boil. Keep an eye on it… It will need more liquid than what is written on the package. This is not because you did something wrong, is because you have other items in the pot, that will absorb the water.
When is nearly done (almost cooked and only a little liquid left…
Add the cheese. I said it before, smoked gouda is good, blue cheese is unbelievable. And you are done…
I like to put it in a measuring cup that has been lightly lubed…
and flip it over the plate and…
Amazing dish, quick and flexible… With the early tones it has from the mushrooms and the cumin, herbs like thyme and a tarragon, would be great additions. If you use some blue cheese, it will be the perfect pair for steak. But even like this with a glass of white wine, will be super unbelievable dinner