When I was in high school, my first boyfriend’s mom used to make a delicious pilaf with barley and mushrooms that I would eat by the bowlful. I loved it so much that I requested the recipe, but it’s been nearly six years now and I hadn’t made it since. I generally always have mushrooms and carrots on hand, but it seemed strange to buy barley simply for the purpose of making one dish.
The recipe also called for quite a bit of oil, which doesn’t quite fit my current lifestyle, and quite a bit of preparation, including nearly an hour in the oven (not quite doable on our first 80-plus degree day). I was worried that leaving it out would compromise the creaminess of the original version, but if I had known how this revised edition would come out, I would have attempted it a lot sooner.
I love the texture of the Israeli couscous. I had purchased it awhile ago, not really sure what I would turn it into, but eager to try something other than a typical Mediterranean-style salad. This pilaf is savory, nutty and ever-so-slightly creamy – feel free to substitute the couscous with barley or orzo pasta if you don’t have it on hand.
The trick here is to chop and slice all the veggies very finely – the chewy, nutty pearls of couscous contrast nicely with the soft and savory cooked vegetables. A liberal sprinkling of dried cranberries adds some sweetness and color, but any dried fruit will do here – next time I hope to add dried apricots and slivered almonds for a little crunch.
Serve this alongside your favorite tofu dish, or enjoy it as a light springtime lunch.