11 December 2011

Iron Chef Challenge - December 2011: Mint


The Iron Chef Challenge strikes again. The secret ingredient for December is mint--an herb that features ever so nicely in the sweets of the season. I initially warmed to the idea of finally getting some holiday baking going with this month's challenge, but have been strangely lacking the motivation to bake that I so often indulge during this time of year. I've also fallen into a bit of a cooking slump in general lately, so most of what I have procured from my kitchen has been quite simple.
My entry for the Iron Chef Challenge is no exception. I pretty much took items already on hand: namely, a barely-touched box of whole wheat couscous, a few bags of mint tea, leftover chopped leek, and roasted pistachios. Because couscous only requires that it sit, covered, in hot liquid, rather than being boiled (like regular pasta), I thought it would be interesting to see whether I could infuse the couscous with minty flavor. It turns out that simmering mint tea for a few minutes before adding the couscous to the liquid does the trick, permeating the pasta with a gentle herbal flavor. Freshly squeezed lemon juice and chopped mint lend freshness to the dish, while pistachios add nutty, salty crunch.
Mint Tea Whole Wheat Couscous (printer-friendly version)
Yields 4 servings
Soy-free

½ c leek, cleaned and chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 c water
2 bags mint tea, or 2 tsp loose tea placed in an infuser
Juice of 1 lemon
½ c frozen petite peas, thawed
1 c whole wheat couscous
1 T fresh mint, chopped
¼ c roasted, salted pistachios, shelled and chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium flame. Add the leek with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leek begins to soften and brown. Add the water and bring it to a boil. Add the tea bags or infuser. Reduce the heat to a simmer and allow the tea to steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea and discard. Turn off the heat, then stir in the lemon juice, peas, and couscous. Cover the pan for 5 minutes, without peeking.

Uncover the pan. All of the liquid should be absorbed. Add the fresh mint and pistachios, using a fork to gently combine the ingredients and fluff the couscous. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

5 comments:

  1. Brilliant! I love subtle infusions and the pistachios must give a nice crunch to the dish as well.

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  2. Oh, I'm with you there. I've hardly stepped foot in my kitchen all week. Fruit and steamed veggies are all that I have been eating for a while now. 
    This does look very good, though. The tea infusion is a very clever idea - I'll have to try that some time!

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  3. Great idea to use mint tea bags! I'm a big believer in "using what's on hand" (especially since my groceries-- from a very limited selection-- are delivered only once a week, and I can't shop in between times), and it's amazing how this restriction results in so much creative cookery.

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  4. Thank you, Tiffany! I so miss my fresh garden mint at this time of year. What a eureka to use a mint tea infusion. Perfect!

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  5. Ooh.  This looks like something I would love to take in my lunches!

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Thanks for reading! Your comments are always welcome and appreciated. :)