Israeli couscous RISOTTO in MUSHROOMS {2 recipes}

Moist Semolina meets water to roll out these precious, rugged pasta pearls into a 'Risotto'. 

'Cremini' mushrooms were all too anxious to host Israeli couscous within their home cavities.

I'd love to declare these 'pearls' as an Italian creation...
however, the accolades mostly go to my Hebrew friends. 
After all, I do need to give credit where it’s due.
Sharing my 'cucina' with other cultures is truly inspirational ;o)

Continued enthusiasm went into this main dish through a 'Risotto' inspired creation.
Sorry...I just can't help putting my Italian cuisine into one more eclectically twisted recipe.
This is multi-culturalism working in unison...
'Israeli' couscous...broth...and lots of Parmigiano ;o)

Lightly re-toasting the couscous, released a very pleasant, nutty aroma.

Slowly simmering it in several flavours had resulted into an incredibly memorable dish.
The stuffed mushrooms were a great way to enjoy this main 'Risotto' as a double duty.

With 'AUSTERITY' so frequent in conversations these days...how could I not mention the important moment in time where Israel had served as a great example pertaining to a semolina food creation.
For over a decade long during 50s, there was a time when Israel had gone through a long rationing period.  Rice had become quite scarce and the creation of these semolina 'rice-type' balls were created.
Initially it was referred to as the 'Ben-Gurion's Rice', named after Israeli's first Prime Minister.   It was he, after all who had commissioned a food company to create a unique product.  This was quickly executed to be able to satisfy the 'Mizrahi' immigrants whose needs for a rice replacement was of the utmost importance.  Over this product’s lifetime, a healthier version has been developed into a whole-wheat and spelt flour P'titim as well.

Here's some NUTRITIONAL info that surprised me and encouraged more use of COUSCOUS:
. Couscous is lower on the Glycemic index scale...less sugar is always welcomed.
. It contains an impressive vitamin profile holding double the amounts found in regular pasta.  
. Not only is it less caloric than pasta...couscous also offers more protein than white rice.

A little more background:
The regular, more familiar small-sized couscous did originate in Northern Africa. 
There’s also another, over-sized 'pearl' couscous called 'Mograbieh'...
which is frequently used in Middle Eastern cuisines.  
Not to be confused with...a similar looking 'Maftoul'...
which is another Arabic variation made from a combo of wheat and bulgur. 
Puzzled yet?  
I surely was the first time I went searching for this 'Israeli' couscous.

Off I had gone to a few Middle Eastern as well as North African specialized shops.
Little did I realize how territorial some clerks would be.
Their strong opinions got me more perplexed than ever.
I came back home empty handed and frustratedly went to my computer to do a proper search.
I finally extracted some clarifications on origins and the varieties derived from several places.

...Israeli couscous [P'titim]...aka Jerusalem couscous:
It's a type of hard wheat flour pasta shaped into small, dense balls which then get lightly oven roasted.  
Although, historically, the original couscous was derived from the millet grain...the cheaper and easier to come by wheat was quickly adopted as a replacement to make this larger sized couscous.
In some places, Millet couscous is still consumed and in many other regions, a coarsely ground barley is also transformed into a couscous.  Just as 'Maftoul' is made differently...so is the Brazilian 'cuscuz' variety traditionally made from cornmeal.  
Note: These fine products can also be used for the following recipes.

Other than the preparation I'll be sharing in the following 'Risotto-style' recipe...
here are two other ways this pasta can be cooked:

1. Cook it like regular pasta:
For every 1 cup (225g) of couscous, use 4 cups (1Litre) of water.  In a pot with a rolling water boil, add to it a generous pinch of sea salt.  Pour the couscous and stir.  It should be 'al dente' within 10-12 minutes.  Strain and use as you would in a pasta dish.
2. Steam cook it as well as using a flavoured option:
. A 'Kiskas' steamer or as the French call a 'Couscoussiere' would be an authentic way to prepare this couscous.  However, since I don't own this original pot, I use my regular conventional steamer insert,  lined with a damp cheesecloth.   I, then soak the couscous in a large bowl with a generous pinch of sea salt and enough boiled water to exceed the surface of the pearls.  Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes or so.   Also, in order to avoid the grains from clumping, it’s suggested to occasionally stir the couscous while it's soaking. 
3. If you'd like to add aromatic flavourings: place and cover the steamer over a prepared pot with cooking, flavoured broth (about 4 cups /1 litre) of your choice.  On a low-medium heat, steam it for a slow-cook of 1-1/2 to 2 hour period until tender.

When cooked, the advantage of this Israeli Couscous is that...
it not only retains its shape, it also doesn't need to be fluffed to avoid clumping.

Vegetable 'Israeli' COUSCOUS risotto
serves 4-6 people

Click HERE for a PRINTER version of recipe

(American / Metric measures)

...Vegetable mix:
. 2 Tbsps. (30ml) E.V.Olive Oil
. 2 Tbsps. (30ml) unsalted butter
. 1 large sweet onion, chopped
. 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
. 1 medium carrot, shredded
. 10 mushroom* stems, chopped (optional)
. 1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) each sea salt and garlic powder
. 1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) each of dried herbs:  basil, oregano, sage, tarragon
. 2 cups (450g) 'Israeli' couscous
. 1/2 cup (250ml) sweet, White wine or Sherry
. 6 cups (1.5L) chicken or vegetable broth, kept warm 
. 1 cup (180g) grated 'Parmeggiano Reggiano', packed
* Mushroom stems:  taken from 10 large 'cremini' mushrooms which can be used for either the below mentioned recipe or another of your choosing.

...Vegetable mix:
1. In a large, deep saucepan, heat both oil and butter over medium heat.   Add the onions and sauté until translucent and lightly caramelized.  Add the remaining vegetables and seasoning.  Cook just a few minutes more.
2. Afterwards, remove half the amount of vegetable mix and set aside under cover to keep warm.  Create a well in the center of the pan to soon receive the couscous.
3. Add the couscous into the pan and lightly roast it within the center part of the pan.  Stir occasionally for about a minute or so.
4. Add the wine and stir.  When it starts showing final absorption,  start ladling in a small quantity of warm broth.  Turn down the heat to low-medium to continue simmering.  Repeat the slow ladling of the broth.   Note: have the couscous lightly dry out before adding more broth.  Frequently stir until most of the liquid is absorbed into a tender and creamy couscous 'Risotto'.  Takes about 20-25 minutes.
5. Add back the remaining cooked vegetables and combine.  Remove from heat.
. Finish the risotto by stirring in most of the Parmesan cheese and leave some aside for topping.  
. Garnish with optional shaved pieces of Parmesan and some parsley.  Buon appetito ;o)

Within the next few days the menu can extend itself to this double-duty use of 'Risotto'.

Israeli COUSCOUS stuffed 'cremini' MUSHROOMS
(from leftover 'couscous Risotto' recipe)

serves 4-6 people

Click HERE for a PRINTER version of recipe

(American / Metric measures)
. 10 large cremini mushroom caps
. 1/2 cup (100g) Feta* cheese, crumbled
. 2 cups (500ml) 'Risotto' mix (leftovers)
* Feta cheese variety: 
The Bulgarian Feta (derived from sheep's milk) has a much creamier texture than Greek Feta.  
The one sold in the metal tin can...is of superior quality...less salty also.  
Egyptian Feta is also an excellent choice.

. Position the rack onto 2nd level from the bottom. Pre-heat the oven at 375F/190C/Gas5.  Also, prepare a shallow, medium sized pan lined with parchment or aluminum paper.
1. Prepare mushroom caps by lightly scrub-cleaning them with a paper towel.
2. To a left-over 'Risotto' vegetable mix, (recipe above) add to it the crumbled Feta cheese.
3. Stuff each mushroom evenly and generously by pressing down gently on the filling so that it doesn't fall apart.  
4. Now, place the stuffed mushrooms onto the prepared lined pan.
5. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the point of a knife goes in without resistance.
. Serve with a salad or any vegetable of your choosing.  Enjoy.

I can only hope for you to also adventure with ingredients less familiar.  
Out of curiosity and at times frustrations...
many meals may surprise your palate as well ;o)

Flavourful wishes,

Comments or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at:  foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com

Go HERE for more SAVOURY creations.

Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)

. Use DRY cup measurements for...you guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.
OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new recipe...run to the store...you'll thank me later. 

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