Couscous Risotto

Risotto is one of those dishes that scare home cooks. I learned to not be afraid of risotto after making a baked risotto a few years ago. It came out just fine, and actually pretty good, so I moved on to the regular stove-top version. Despite all of the warnings I heard on various tv food shows over the years, it turns out that risotto really isn’t hard. Yes, it takes time, and yes, you need to watch it, but it isn’t an hour of constant stirring. In all honesty, it is hard to get perfect, but it is also hard to screw up. Risotto, if you are just aiming for a good meal, is easy.

I decided to try something a little different. I love pearled or Israeli couscous – it has texture, structure and can accommodate a ton of different things added to it. Since it is pretty simple to cook, I tried to make it in a risotto style – and it worked. Bob loved this dish and he is not generally a fan of couscous, but the pearled variety is heartier and he apparently likes it. The leftover spinach pesto really brought this dish together and it made a great, filling meal. The only thing I need to do next time is make more of it – I want leftovers and I think it would make a great salad the next day (no microwave needed).

Couscous Risotto:

  • 1 cup pearled couscous
  • 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup spinach pesto
  • 3 tablespoons grated pecorino cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • oil or butter

Bring the vegetable broth to a boil, then cover and reduce heat just to keep warm. Slice the shallot and split the tomatoes in half.

In a medium pan heat oil (or butter – about 1 tablespoon) until hot then add shallot and tomatoes and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes begin to break down and the shallot is soft – about 5 minutes. Add the couscous to the pan and cook, stirring to coat, about two minutes. You want the couscous slightly toasted. Season with salt and pepper.

Add about 1/2 of the broth to the pan and stir until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Reduce heat to low and add the rest of the broth. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the broth has been absorbed, about 8 minutes. If the couscous isn’t cooked through, add about a 1/4 cup of water, stir and cover.

Remove from heat and add cheese. Mix. Add pesto and combine well. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed (some vegetable broths provide enough flavor so you don’t need any more here). Makes 2 servings.

Winzer Krems – Gruner Veltliner, 2016

  • Basic info: Winzer Krems – Kremser Sandgrube Gruner Veltliner, Austria, 2016.
  • Type: White
  • Price estimate: $13 (Total Wine)
  • Look: Very pale yellow, almost clear and colorless.
  • Smell: herbs, citrus
  • Taste: Tart. Citrus, lemon with a slight sour note. Little bit of effervescence with a short finish.
  • Conclusions: It was not bad, better than some whites, but not fantastic.
  • Other notes: After having the PFAFFL gruner veltliner a few weeks before, I was super excited to try a different wine of the same grape. This one was nice, but it just lacked that something special the other bottle had. The finish was shorter and there was a slight sour taste that was not in the PFAFFL. I wanted to love this wine, but I just didn’t. It also had a 90 point rating from Wine Enthusiast¬†which I know, logically, mean very little, but I was hoping it would give some direction when picking a new bottle. Sadly, it did not.
  • From the bottle:¬†No bottle notes, but from Total Wine, “Savory notes of crushed chervil and yeast join lively, almost fizzing notes of lemon zest. This is ultrafresh, light-footed and very toned. Juicy, ripe acidity animates you to drink this almost as a thirst-quencher.” 12.5% alcohol by volume.