My friend V introduced me to pearl couscous. Last year, she made us a delicious, spicy dish with sauteed pearl couscous, cumin and crushed peanuts. That got me hooked onto these little chewy ‘pearls’. Also called Israeli couscous, pearl couscous is actually a pasta. I bought mine at Trader Joe’s and V told me its available at Whole Foods as well. I love its texture in soup and it cooks in under 10 minutes. In keeping with this weeks ‘easy cooking’ theme, I made a soup with lots of crushed peppercorns, spinach, kale and pearl couscous.
Peppery Greens Soup with Pearl Couscous
(about 6 servings)
Pearl Couscous – 1 1/4 cup, raw (or use any kind of small pasta – orzo, small shells or macaroni)
Frozen Spinach – a 10 oz package, thawed. (or use fresh spinach)
Kale or any kind of greens – 2 cups, chopped
Cannellini beans – 1 can
Onion – 1 large
Garlic – 4 cloves
Parsley – 1/2 cup chopped
Bay leaf – 1
Peppercorns – 1/2 tbsp
White wine – 1/4 cup
Vegetable stock or water – 10 cups
Lemon juice – 2 tbsp
Olive oil or butter – 2 tbsp
Place the peppercorns in a zip lock bag. Using a rolling pin, roughly crush the peppercorns. This method makes the soup peppery. If want your soup milder, throw in the peppercorns whole, and fish them out before serving.
Finely chop and onion , garlic and parsley. Chop or shred the kale.
Heat the olive oil or butter in a deep pot on medium heat. Add the bay leaf and crushed peppercorns. When the bay leaf is fragrant, about 30 seconds, add the onion. Saute till onions are soft. Then add the garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium high. Add the parsley and pour in the white wine. Let the wine come to a boil. Now pour in 10 cups of water or stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 12 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, work on the pearl couscous. Heat a skillet on medium-low heat. Place the pearl couscous in the skillet (without any oil) and toast the couscous, stirring occasionally, till its slightly brown.
When the soup has simmered for 12 minutes, remove the lid and add the toasted couscous to the soup. Also add the chopped kale (if you are using a different kind of green, add it to the soup later, depending on its cooking time). Let the couscous boil in the soup for about 7-8 minutes. Check to see if its done – it must be cooked but chewy.
When couscous is done, stir in the spinach and cannellini beans. Turn off heat. Taste the soup and add salt and lemon juice.
To serve, spoon the soup into bowls. Drizzle each bowl with some olive oil. Top with chopped tomatoes, chopped green olives or grated Parmesan cheese.