Saturday, 16 January 2016

Everyday Exotic

Couscous Aromatico, Spinaci Saltati con Crespelle, Zenzero & Pinoli, e Funghi
Aromatic Couscous, Spinach with Barberries, Ginger & Pine Nuts & Mushrooms

I hope you have great plans for the rest of your menu- because if you start of with this little appetizer that I have invented for you- it is going to be a pretty tough act to follow!

Just teasing of course! But at the same time, this was indeed every bit as delicious as it looks- much easier to make than you may at first think... and considering the depth of flavor in the end result, made from such simple ingredients! I think you might like it!

I think most people have turmeric in their spice cupboards nowadays- it is most commonly used as "the poor man's saffron", but of course, is a whole different beast. It adds color in a wonderful way and though it doesn't have a particularly strong flavor or aroma of its own, is very healthy and works well to help blend other flavors- which made it a perfect choice for this dish!

For 2 appetizers, I needed 4 good sized mushrooms, 4-5 small bunches of tender spinach (1 good handful of stems-worth), 1 onion, a little fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons of barberries, 1 teaspoon of turmeric, 1 tablespoon of pine nuts, 1 tablespoon of beef bouillon powder, salt, pepper, chili flakes and olive oil.

The only "unusual" ingredient used in the whole thing, was the barberries, which have a great, bitter-sweet tang to them and can be found at ethnic store, in particular in Persian markets. 

If you can't find them readily where you live, don't fret- you can substitute with raisins or dried cranberries to get the same effect- that touch of sweetness, together with the pine nuts and ginger transform the spinach into something out of this world!

To prepare the couscous, 2 cups in this case, add a little bouillon- I used beef, but you can use vegetable or chicken too, turmeric and chili flakes to taste, then cover with twice the amount of boiling water and allow to steep for 10 minutes in the usual way. 

And in the meantime, you can prepare the other ingredients.

Finely dice the onion and use half of it with the thinly sliced mushrooms, which you need to fry in just a small amount of olive oil at a high temperature for 4-5 minutes. Season simply with salt and pepper to keep the flavor of the mushrooms pure and strong.

Before you get started on the spinach, use the dry pan to toast the pine nuts in and set them to one side to cool, then fry the other half of the finely diced onion together with finely chopped or grated ginger and the barberries. The berries need to be well rinsed before using and should soak for 5-10 minutes. You won't need much ginger- just 1" or so, cut first into the finest dice you can manage- just 1 teaspoons-worth or so.

Once the onion has become translucent and the barberries nice and shiny, add the well-rinsed spinach without shaking it dry and pop on the lid so that it can wilt down for 2-3 minutes or so, then add a drizzle of olive oil and toss for a further minute or so, until any excess moisture can evaporate away.

Once the spinach is done, season with salt and pepper, add the pine nuts, and you are ready to assemble your most appetizing of appetizers!

Using a serving ring, spoon in 14-15 teaspoons of couscous and press down nice and firmly.

Next, add a good tablespoon of the mushrooms and onion.

Finish off with the spinach, but make sure to leave most of the pine nuts to one side, so that you can add them decoratively on top before serving.

Press down carefully, lift away the ring... and voila!

Add a few more pine nuts and barberries on top and serve lukewarm... delicious! And so pretty too!

No comments:

Post a Comment