The problem with ignoring my ever-growing stack of new recipes to try is that eventually some of those recipes fall out of season. I can either wait until next year, or I can convert the dish into whatever works right now. This couscous dish is from the April issue of Vegetarian Times, and it was originally called Israeli couscous with saffron, olives, and spring vegetables. A simple swapping of eggplant and zucchini for the suggested peas and fennel made it all about late summer. The great flavor in the dish comes from finely chopped leek, wine, and saffron. This was a rare occasion in which I found myself with pasta and no cheese in sight, but I realized that’s perfectly fine when saffron is involved. The kalamata olives and fresh basil garnish gave it an added boost that also kept me from missing any cheese. Although I definitely didn’t serve the leftovers in stacks formed by a ring mold, I copied that presentation from the magazine photo for our first meal with this dish.
Once all the vegetables are chopped, this dish comes together very easily. While chopping, the water can be coming to a boil for the couscous. Leek, eggplant, zucchini, and garlic were sauteed in a large skillet as the couscous boiled. White wine was added followed by the cooked and drained couscous, diced fresh tomatoes, and saffron. Last, arugula leaves were added, seasoning was adjusted, and it was covered and left to sit for a few minutes. I formed stacks, but it could have been served in bowls, and it was topped with halved olives, basil chiffonade, and a drizzle of olive oil.
The saffron perfumed the dish well, and the fresh, seasonal vegetables were at their best. The chewy couscous was just a tad smaller than the diced pieces of vegetables, and the wilted arugula wound its way throughout the pasta. The olives were a great touch on top, and you should use your favorite kind here, and that goes for the olive oil that’s drizzled at the end too. Simple but fresh and flavorful, this is a dish I’ll keep modifying from one season to the next.