Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Orange-Scented Couscous Pudding and Jerusalem’s Burnt Eggplant Soup


Couscous, a staple in Middle Eastern and North African cooking, is Tasting Jerusalem’s ingredient for April. These cute little pearls of durum wheat semolina are commonly served with meat dishes, in soups, in salads or as a side dish.


A recipe I’ve been eyeing in Jerusalem is the Burnt Eggplant and Mograbieh Soup. When this past weekend turned chilly and rainy, I decided it was an ideal time to make soup. Charred eggplant is incredibly appealing to me and it’s amazing in this tomato-based soup. Mograbieh is Lebanese couscous, a larger-sized version than the tiny spheres typically seen. It’s similar to Israeli or giant couscous, which is readily available in Western markets.


Since I just pulled our barbecue out for spring it seemed the perfect place to roast the eggplants. Sue, from Couscous & Conscientiousness, made the same soup and also used a barbecue. Less messy than the oven! Plus, you can’t beat the flavor that a barbecue imparts. I tweaked the recipe just a bit, using white wine in place of broth and increasing the tomatoes because we like things really tomato-ey around here. And before cooking the couscous, I toasted the pearls in melted butter until they turned golden and fragrant. When serving the soup, I kept the couscous on the side so everyone could scoop in the amount they desired.  With its deeply satisfying, smoky flavor and bright pop of dill, this is a soup I’ll be happy to eat quite often!


Beth and Sarene are also hosting a couscous recipe contest this month for Tasting Jerusalem. I decided to move in a sweeter direction with couscous and make a pudding for my boys. A lonely bottle of orange blossom water has been sitting in my cabinet for a while, and pairing this with honey and orange zest seemed a marvelous way to flavor the pudding. Orange blossom water has a truly lovely fragrance, and I’ve discovered it’s quite good in tea, too, so I think I’ll be keeping it within easier reach.


I simmered Israeli couscous with cream and honey, whisked in egg yolks and coconut milk, then added a splash of orange blossom water and a bit of orange zest to finish the pudding. Warm, rich and creamy, with a hint of honey and the delicate scent of orange, this pudding is indulgent for breakfast or dessert. Needless to say, my sons devoured it quickly!


Orange-Scented Couscous Pudding
Serves 4

1/2 cup Israeli (giant) couscous
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey, plus extra for serving
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-14 ounce can whole, unsweetened coconut milk
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (or more to taste)
1 teaspoon orange zest
Orange slices for serving (optional)

In a medium sized sauce pan, bring the cream, couscous, honey and salt to almost a boil, lower the heat and let simmer for about 7-8 minutes, until couscous is al dente. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and coconut milk until smooth. Slowly pour the coconut-egg mixture into the cream and couscous and stir. Continue cooking, stirring a few times, until the pudding thickens, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the orange blossom water and orange zest.

Let the pudding cool slightly (it will thicken as it cools). It’s best served warm or room temperature with orange slices a drizzle of honey. If you chill the pudding, it will thicken quite a bit so warm it and add a little cream or coconut milk to loosen it.

Burnt Eggplant and Mograbieh Soup
Adapted slightly from Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Serves 4

2 large eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon cumin
1-6 ounce can tomato paste
1 pound Roma tomatoes, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, plus lemon slices to serve
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup Israeli (giant) couscous or mograbieh
Fresh dill for garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat your barbecue on high, then lower to medium. Slice one of the eggplants in half lengthwise and set aside one of the halves. Pierce the whole and remaining half eggplant a few times and place on the barbecue. Close the cover and let cook for about 10 – 15 minutes. When blackened, turn them and cook for another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Dice the raw half of eggplant into a small dice. In a large sauce pan or soup pot, drizzle a little olive oil and fry the eggplant over medium heat. Stir a couple of times, so most of the sides brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add another drizzle of olive oil and the onions and cook over medium heat the onions are soft. Add the cumin, tomato paste, tomatoes and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the wine, water and lemon juice, bring to a simmer and then lower heat. Let cook for about 15 minutes.

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat and add the couscous. Stir and toast it until it browns. Watch closely, as it will turn dark and burn quickly. Add enough water to cover by 1 inch, a sprinkle of kosher salt and bring to a boil. Cook until just softened, about 8 minutes (depending upon your brand). Drain and set aside.

Remove the cook eggplant flesh and add to the tomato base. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until mostly smooth. Reheat gently and add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with some fried eggplant, dill and a slice of lemon. Serve the couscous in a bowl alongside, allowing everyone to scoop out what they’d like.

42 comments:

  1. This looks fabulous. I love charred eggplant and the wonderful flavors in this soup.

    Bevi

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    1. Thank you, Bevi! This soup is definitely a keeper - so many delicious flavors and textures in one bowl. I had to stop myself from nibbling too much of the burnt eggplant!

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  2. I used Israeli couscous first before ever trying the smaller grain and I'm hooked; I never bother with 'regular' couscous. My favorite is a simple preparation but also includes browning the pearls before cooking them in chicken broth with rosemary and garlic. I admit...never thought of them for dessert but this is beautiful and my daughter would love this. I've even got some orange flower water in the cupboard...it was meant to be!

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    1. Barb, your Israeli couscous dish sounds wonderful! The giant couscous is much easier to cook, too - no fussing with the correct ratio of water-to-grain. I hope you and your daughter both enjoy the pudding! Thinking of you. xx

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  3. What a great post Hannah - Love your photos - the blue for the eggplant is just luscious to look at. My eggplants are in the fridge and the weather is PERFECT for barbecue here - but can you send me some extra hours in the day please?

    Love your couscous pudding and the fact that you used another ingredient we all have in our cupboards from February!

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    1. Thank you so much, Beth! I know, more hours are always needed. Hopefully you can squeeze in time to make this soup. I promise you'll love it! Enjoy your gorgeous weather, too...maybe sip a cocktail while you're grilling and have a mini-vacation. :)

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  4. So much of this post speaks to me! We're moving soon, so I'm trying to empty our food stocks as much as I can. There's a bag of Israeli couscous and a bottle of orange blossom in my pantry; I can hear my kitchen beckoning me to make these two recipes! Kevin and I love the broiled eggplant from Plenty, so grilling eggplant for this soup sounds splendid. The soup seems like a great meal for cool late spring evenings. And the pudding...I only recently fell in love with tapioca and rice puddings, so your recipe is right up my alley. Yum!

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    1. Thank you, Brianne! Wow, I hope all your packing and prep is going well. This is definitely a terrific way to use up some couscous. I need to try that broiled eggplant in Plenty - I know I'll love it! We're having chilly evenings here, too, so soup is always welcome. And as a long time lover of tapioca and rice pudding, I'm delighted you've discovered them! Good luck with your move!

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  5. Awesome pudding and love the eggplant dish too! The couscous in the pudding is a stroke of genius, love it!! I just got my cookbook and I can't wait to cook through it!!

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    1. Thank you, Suzanne! I know you love Middle Eastern cooking, so you will appreciate this one immensely. Come join us at Tasting Jerusalem - we'd love to have you cook along with us. :)

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  6. This dinner looks so fabulous--especially the soup. I have a copy of Jerusalem but still haven't cooked anything out of it! Clearly I need to get a move on. :)

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    1. Thank you, Eileen! I think you'll enjoy cooking from Jerusalem - I really appreciate all the fresh, unique flavors. And I'd love to have you join Tasting Jerusalem if you want to cook along with us!

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  7. What a wonderful soup. The grilled eggplant must add lots of flavors. I love tomato based soup. And these Couscous pudding sounds just as awesome. Well match with the coconut milk. Good luck in the contest.

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    1. Thank you so much, Amy! This really is a terrific soup and I'll be making it again soon. I'm loving all things coconut these days, too, so I'm using lots of coconut milk.

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  8. So interesting this couscous...I never used Israeli couscous for sweet...now I must give this a try...looks delicious.
    Thanks for the recipe and have a great week Hannah :)

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    1. Thank you, Juliana! I hope you enjoy the pudding. I'm happy you stopped by!

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  9. Two wonderful dishes, Hannah. So glad you enjoyed the soup and that roasting the eggplant on the barbeque worked for you. Love the changes you made - especially toasting the couscous first - that's a great idea.

    I love your pudding also, Hannah. Orange blossom water is a great ingredient, but I confess to have a bottle in my cupboard that all too often I forget to dip into. Love your idea of also using it in tea.

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    1. Thank you, Sue! Like you, I think this is one of the best soups ever and I'll be making it again soon. And I've greatly underestimated orange blossom water, so I'm happy to have found a way to use it more often in tea plus it smells so good!).

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    1. Thank you, Lail! I'm happy you stopped by. :)

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  11. I've never cooked with the giant couscous - only the smaller version. What a great dish, though! I love the look of it. Thanks so much.

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    1. My pleasure, John! Cooking with the larger couscous is a fun variation (and quite simple - just like cooking pasta). I hope you enjoy it!

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  12. Hannah - that soup looks amazing!! Jerusalem is such a great cookbook - I have to try this :)

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    1. I think you'll enjoy it, Alyssa! The soup's pretty amazing with the grilled flavor of the eggplant. Now I'm thinking about roasting the tomatoes the next time I make it...

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  13. Grilled eggplant in the soup! I don't think I ever had soup with my favorite eggplant. That's a brilliant idea. I love coconut flavor and this couscous pudding seems irresistible!

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    1. Mixing grilled eggplant into soup was new to me, too, Nami, and believe me, it's delicious! I'll be doing it again soon. My boys gobbled the pudding up quickly, so I think that one'll be on my list again soon, too! Have a great weekend!

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  14. Hi Hannah. What a gorgeous pudding and a soup! These both look like they would be pure comfort. I had the opportunity to travel to the Middle East a few years ago, and the flavors and textures of that region are so very alluring. Thank you for sharing with us!

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    1. Thank you so much, Monet! What a marvelous trip you took - you must have eaten so well during your travels. I think the Middle East has some of the very best food and I could easily eat it everyday! Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

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  15. Do you know the history of Israeli cous cous and David Ben Gurion? It's absolutely fascinating. When you have a chance, google it.

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    1. Hi Molly! No, I didn't know the history of Israeli couscous. I just read it and appreciate you letting me know! Thanks so much. Wishing you a wonderful week ahead!

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  16. I love all of these flavors - I will be trying both recipes. Eggplant first!

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    1. Thank you, Lynda! I hope you enjoy both. I love eggplant and hadn't made soup with it before - so good, and I'll be making another batch soon.

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  17. After reading yours & Sue's post I must, must make this soup...it just sounds, well amazing :) The dessert sounds delightful & fragrant too, I hope you are having a lovely weekend :)

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    1. Mairi, I think you'll love the soup! I like how Sue roasted the eggplant cubes rather than frying and I think I'll do that next time. We've been enjoying an amazing weekend...hot and sunny! I hope yours was relaxing and fun.

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  18. Both recipes sound delicious. The soup sounds perfect for later this summer when I'll have an abundance of tomatoes from my garden. I agree with you about using the grill for the eggplant.

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    1. Thank you, Karen! And yes, this will be a marvelous soup for late summer - can't wait for those tomatoes!

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  19. A friend of mine made another of his eggplant dishes for us this weekend. Holy cats, that's good stuff. I have a whole new respect for eggplant...

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    1. Anyone who makes you an eggplant dish, especially one of Ottolenghi's, is a good friend, Brooke! I can imagine it was delicious. I hope you enjoyed lots of time outside over the weekend!

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  20. Jerusalem is my favorite cookbook!! Well anything Ottolenghi is my favorite. You really cannot go wrong with his recipes. I haven't tried this soup yet, but it looks amazing. Im obsessed with eggplant so eggplant + Ottolenghi is definitely a winner.

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    1. I agree, Beth - anything Ottolenghi is my favorite, too. If you're an eggplant lover then I highly recommend you make this soup! I'm marking more eggplant recipes to try soon, especially since our barbecue is out now and we can grill them. Enjoy!

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  21. These recipes look gorgeous! I can't wait to keep cooking my way through Jerusalem with you! I can really feel your joy for cooking through all of your posts! Thanks for your kind words! Can't wait to see what you've got cooking next.

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    1. Thank you, Amanda! I appreciate your nice comment and I look forward to cooking with you, too! Love the theme for May - happy baking to you. :)

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