Way in the back of the top shelf in my kitchen cupboard, I found a Bulk Barn bag of Israeli couscous. Sometimes also called pearl couscous, Israeli couscous is nothing like its fluffy, small-grained cousin that most people are used to. It’s essentially little balls of pasta that have a delightfully firm and chewy texture. Couscous is the perfect medium through which to showcase the diverse nature of vegetables, making them the true stars of the dish. I don’t like vegetables (But you’re vegan! Yes, I know, I know), so I’m always experimenting with ways of cooking them that don’t make me push them around my plate like a kid being forced to eat broccoli.
I searched online for some recipe ideas but nothing really appealed to me, so I decided to create something on my own and cross my fingers and hope that it turned out to be edible. Depth of flavour was my biggest concern, as was the umami flavour that is often lacking in vegan cuisine. I needed something hearty, filling, and delicious, with bold flavours that complemented each other harmoniously. After consulting The Flavour Bible, I settled on the following recipe, and am pleased and surprised to say that it delivered. You’d think I actually knew what I was doing!
First you roast the zucchini in a super hot oven for 15 minutes to get them nice and soft and sweet.
Next you lightly caramelize the onion with some garlic, dried porcini mushrooms for depth, and crushed red pepper flakes for some heat.
Then you add the mushroom tops to the mixture and cook until they’re nice and soft. This onion mushroom mixtures becomes the dressing for the couscous.
Once the couscous is cooked, you mix it all together with the roasted zucchini, tomatoes, and fresh herbs and keep it simmering on low heat to meld all the flavours. Then your king oyster mushroom stalks are seared in a screaming hot cast iron pan until they’re beautifully caramelized and look just like scallops!
The finished product is a sweet, earthy amalgamation of fresh summer flavours with vibrant pops of tangy tomatoes and green herbs. This dish focuses on bringing out the unique flavours of each vegetable and combining them to create something spectacular. It is super healthy but it doesn’t taste like it, which is my ultimate goal!
- 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch strips
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried parsley
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 1 medium red or yellow onion, diced
- 2 large or 4 small cloves garlic, minced
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, crushed
- 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp white wine vinegar
- 4 large and fat king oyster mushrooms, stalks cut into 1/2 inch flat rings, tops chopped and set aside
- 2 cups Israeli couscous
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 medium vine tomatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped (reserve some for garnish, if desired)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Coat zucchini strips in 1 tbsp of the oil and sprinkle with dried parsley, oregano, and 1/2 tsp salt. Toss to coat and lay the zucchini flat in a single layer on the baking sheet, being sure not to crowd them. Bake for 15 minutes, flipping halfway through. Once cooked, remove from the oven to cool, and chop into bite-sized pieces. Set aside somewhere warm.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pot (will later be used to boil couscous) and fry the onion on medium-low heat with a pinch of salt until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Increase heat to medium and add the garlic, dried porcini, crushed red pepper flakes, and the mushroom heads. Stir to combine and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the vegetables don’t burn. If some bits stick to the bottom of the pot, use 2 tsp white wine vinegar to deglaze the pot. Once the onions and mushrooms have some colour, transfer to a bowl and set aside somewhere warm.
- In the same pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the couscous and toss to coat in the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes, just until most of the couscous is lightly browned. Pour in the 4 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 10-12 minutes until couscous is softened but still has some bite.
- Drain the couscous and return to the pot, adding the roasted zucchini, onion mixture, chopped fresh tomatoes, basil, and parsley. Mix thoroughly but gently, tasting for seasoning, and adding more salt if needed. Cover and keep somewhere warm, or return to the burner on very low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Ensure the pan is very hot before adding the mushroom stalks all in one layer. Sprinkle the top of each with a little salt and pepper and sear for 6-8 minutes. Once nicely browned, flip the mushrooms and repeat the process on the other side, being sure to sprinkle more salt and pepper to season.
- Serve the king oyster mushroom scallops atop a bed of the couscous, and garnish with parsley and basil if desired.
This dish is well worth the time and effort involved. It’s a perfect side dish or main course to feed a vegan loved one on a hot summer Sunday afternoon, or for a vegan to impress all her guests at a dinner party. Or if you want to whip up something fancy for Meatless Monday. This is the proof that eating vegan is neither boring or difficult.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I also served this with a side of grilled eggplant steaks which were super easy to make. Just season the same way as the zucchini and grill in a cast iron grill pan or on the barbecue on high heat for about 6-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness. Hope you enjoy, and if you do end up making this recipe, please let me know in the comments how it turned out.