Israeli couscous, which also goes by the moniker pearl couscous or maftoul, is your go-to side if you want a truly elegant dish without a lot of work.
Shaped into small, round balls, these cream-colored pasta pearls are then toasted in an open-flame oven. This culinary technique distinguishes Israeli couscous from dried pastas and tiny, yellow Moroccan couscous –it seals in the starch and toughs up the exterior allowing each pearl to absorb its cooking liquid without falling apart. This crucial step also imparts a subtle, nutty flavor and exquisite mouth-feel to this quick-cooking pasta—a rich, almost gelatinous texture with a bit of chewiness is achieved in the finished dish.
In this recipe, lightly toasting the pasta pearls in olive oil before adding the concentrated porcini mushroom cooking stock further enhances its nutty flavor. But the porcini mushrooms add more to the dish than a rich, earthy taste—a recent study found plant foods high in potassium, such as mushrooms, spinach, broccoli and avocados, sweet potatoes and artichokes, can boost your heart health and reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. It appears that eating twice as much potassium as sodium cuts your risk of dying from a heart disease by 50 percent! Researches found the ratio of the minerals to one another was more important than the levels of individual minerals when it came to predicting a heart attack or stroke.
The researchers aren’t sure why the ratio of 2:1 is vital for protecting the heart, but they speculate that potassium blocks the body’s absorption of sodium. Other studies found high sodium levels increase levels of the stress-hormone, cortisol, which can affect cardiovascular health. Current dietary guidelines limit sodium to 2,600 mg per day (average American gets 4,000 mg). And, most of us get too little potassium—2,300 mg per day instead of the recommended 4,700 mg per day. A good dish to add to your culinary repertoire!
Israeli Couscous with Porcini Mushrooms
1 cup Israeli Couscous
1-3/4 cup water
1 oz. (about 2 cups loosely packed) dried porcini mushrooms
1/8 tsp. black truffle salt (can substitute kosher salt)
1/4 tsp. unsalted butter
In a medium bowl, place 1 ounce dried Italian porcini mushrooms in 1 ¾ cups of water and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes, stir and heat for an additional 3 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit or 15 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and rich, dark brown mushroom stock emerges. Place couscous in a 2-quart pot and add 1 tsp. olive oil and heat on medium heat until hot, about 30 seconds. Add couscous and sauté until pasta is lightly toasted and golden brown, about 1 ½ minutes. Add porcini mushrooms along with soaking liquid and stir with a wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook until all the water is absorbed, about 10-11 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork to separate the pearls. Season with salt and add butter, then fluff with fork again. Pour into serving plate and serve.
Notes from the Author:
Israeli couscous keeps well for several days without losing its texture. Just reheat in the microwave for about 30 second or until hot.