Spinach again! This is also a NYT recipe for a one-pot pasta and spinach side dish. I have been disappointed in one pot pasta dishes, which sometimes turn out gummy. Not good eats, as Alton Brown would say. This recipe works beautifully, and is not exotic in technique or ingredients. It works well with a dish you can find on the recipe blog for panko-baked cod with roasted mushrooms, which we had for dinner last night as a matter of fact. Or baked chicken or pork roast or steak or for that matter, grilled tofu.
2 cups big couscous (sometimes called Israeli couscous);
1 bag (16 oz.) frozen chopped spinach;
1/4 cup diced (smallish) shallot if you have one (or two) or onion if you don’t;
1 teaspoon smushed garlic (2 big cloves for me);
5 cups milk – whole or 2%;
2-4 wide strips of lemon peel (I used 4);
2 tablespoons (or 3) of lemon juice from the lemon from which you took the strips;
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese;
2 tablespoons butter;
salt and pepper.
I have used grate-it-yourself Parmesan (as shown above). I have used pre-grated from the Co-op. Both were just fine. Don’t use the stuff in the green shaker. I’ve used shallot when I had one lying around, and I have used onion. Both fine. One could use orzo or ditalini instead of big cous cous. I had big cous cous.
I started by prepping the shallot and garlic. I melted the butter in a Dutch oven and added the veggies. I turned the heat to medium and stirred now and then for maybe 2 or 3 minutes until the onion and garlic were soft but not browned.
While the onions and garlic were cooking, I used a vegetable peeler to peel off several (4) strips of of lemon peel. And I measured the milk.
Next I added the milk and the frozen spinach and the lemon zest strips. I stirred it up and cooked it on medium heat until the spinach was thawed and the milk was simmering.
While the pasta was cooking, I juiced the lemon. I ended up with 4 tablespoons, but I only needed 2 so I poured the rest into the lemon juice bottle in the refrigerator. It is tempting to use whatever amount one ends up with, but I think it would have been too tart.
Here is the pot when the simmering-milk/thawed spinach stage had been reached. This took maybe 7 or 8 minutes on medium heat. I stirred in about 2 teaspoons of salt because I forgot earlier. The salt can be added with the milk and spinach.
Next I poured in the big cous cous. More stirring.
It took maybe 20 minutes for the cous cous to cook. The recipe said to stir vigorously from time to time to encourage release of starch from the pasta, and I did that. Maybe every 4 or 5 minutes – about 1 minute of vigorous stirring with a wooden spoon.
When the pasta was done, I turned off the heat. Then I stirred in the lemon juice followed by the Parmesan. I also fished out the strips of lemon peel.
In fact, the cous cous absorbed most all of the milk and spinach thawing liquid. We put extra Parmesan on the table to allow individual lily-gilding.
When I was a kid, we always ate spinach with lemon juice which was added at the table, each diner to his or her preferred state of tartness, as that was the way my mother liked spinach. In this dish, between the lemon peel and the addition of a little juice at the end, one achieves a pretty good balance of creamy and spinachy and lemony.
As I said at the top, this is an excellent side for the cod with panko and roasted mushrooms, a recipe to be found on the mearskitchen website.
One last thing: this recipe makes a lot. It is good reheated in the non-stick skillet with a little water. But still. You can easily use half of all of the ingredients and you will have plenty for 2-4 people. The timing and method are exactly the same.