treat yourself: Israeli Couscous, Exotic Mushrooms and Lemon Truffle Vinaigrette

Here's the thing, I'm just going to have to post a few recipes that might seem a little less accessible than usual.  Have to do it.  I've been trying some really interesting (if you know me, that's not really a positive term) recipes with all the trendy things going on and I've not been super happy with the results.  Like, this is good and super healthy but do I want you to try it and feed it to your loved ones?  Probably not.  I want you to like it and receive high praise when you serve it.  I told you a while back about my love for all things Lemonade in LA and I promised to post some recipes from their new cookbook.  They aren't tricky, but some are braises and they take a while.  Most use fresh herbs or some different vegetables or spices you may not just have in your house (and let's face it, that's been a problem this wintry winter because it hasn't been all that easy to get out and shop).  Most are things kids would look at and have way too many questions.  But they've all been absolutely, positively outstanding so I'm just going to have to share some with you.  

In one day I made up a batch of my very favorite not so sloppy joes using my current wine love, Cline Zinfandel.  You should cook with wine you would drink and since Cline Zin is $7.99 at Trader Joe's it's easy to follow this rule.  Then I whipped up a recipe for whole grain mac and cheese that used butternut squash in the sauce because I have an abundance of frozen butternut squash from Whole Foods and for some reason, smoked Gouda cheese.  It was delicious, but needs a little tweaking before sharing.   Neither recipe is from Lemonade, but I'm just telling a little story about the cooking frenzy I enjoyed on one of my day's off, so stick with me here.  Then I made two veggie centric salads/sides.  One I've had every time I've been to LA and one I've always wanted to try, but have never had enough room on my plate.  I've got ingredients for a third, but I have to save something for another day.  Both of these dishes would be perfect for packing for work lunch (you would be the envy of all) or for serving for a brunch or lunch or a trendy small plate kind of dinner.  Both do not taste anything at all like heavy winter food and that's a little refreshing smack dab in the middle of winter (but I do love winter food).  So open your culinary minds and do a little shopping if you'd like to try something new.  Or, if that's a total waste of your time because no one at your house will be this adventurous I will make these dishes for you someday.  But really, there's nothing wrong with taking an hour of your day and making some things you can squirrel away for yourself for the sheer happiness factor of eating them.  

In the interest of actually finishing a post (my draft file is impressive), let's start with the Iraeli couscous, exotic mushrooms and lemon truffle vinaigrette.  Israeli couscous is the big, fat, plump and soft cousin of your everyday couscous.  The little cousci look like pearls.  I've never found them in whole grain, so deal with that and just enjoy them.  Trader Joe's sells Israeli couscous in a little violet colored box.  My best source for exotic mushrooms (a blend with at least Shiitake in there) is Meijer.  Usually $2.99 for 10-ounces and almost always available.  Meyer lemons (seedless and so sweet) are in season and they are perfect for the vinaigrette.  You may be short of white truffle oil.  If your best friend does not live in Italy and bring you an insanely good bottle of white truffle oil, you can buy a small bottle (you add just 1/4 tsp) or just use really good olive oil.  Vegetable broth is handy and tastier (clearly) than water.  Whole Foods 365 brand is good.  This recipe also calls for Parmesan and my favorite comes from Whole Foods with Costco a close second.  Shaving Parmesan is easy with a good vegetable peeler and the big shavings are deliciously salty.  This is so good.  Treat yourself, or call me and I'll make you some.  

Israeli Couscous, Exotic Mushrooms and Lemon Truffle Vinaigrette

10-ounce assorted exotic mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
2 T olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 C Israeli couscous
1 C vegetable broth or water
1/4 C Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette
1/4 C shaved Parmesan
1/4 C coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf/Italian parsley

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle your baking pan with olive oil and toss the mushrooms around to coat them.  Season with kosher salt and pepper (1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper or so).  Roast, stirring or shaking the pan a couple of times until the mushrooms begin to shrink, lose their moisture and brown or about 15-20 minutes.  Place mushrooms in your mixing bowl and allow to cool.  

Place a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and toast the dry couscous, stirring frequently, until it smells nutty and is golden brown (about 5 minutes).  Pour in the broth, cover and simmer until the couscous is just tender, 10-12 minutes.  Set aside and cool.  

When ready to serve, toss together the mushrooms, couscous, vinaigrette, cheese and parsley.  Taste for salt and pepper.  

Lemon Truffle Vinaigrette

Juice of 2 lemons
3/4 C canola or other neutral vegetable oil
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp white truffle oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl or jar, whisk together the juice and oils and season with the salt and pepper.  Whisk or shake to blend.  Keep any leftovers refrigerated for up to one week.


toasting the Israeli couscous


vinaigrette whisked and emulsified



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