Braised Spring Vegetables with Israeli Couscous
This recipe makes the most of the season’s best ingredients — snappy artichokes, young carrots, fresh peas, and their tender shoots — and will guide you through each step of the braising process.
On a side note, if using fresh artichokes seems too daunting or time-consuming, you can use frozen ones. The recipe will still be absolutely delicious. If do you have a little time on your hands, though, follow the instructions for fresh artichokes — you won’t regret it.
See all couscous recipes.
*Note: If using frozen artichoke hearts, do not thaw.
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 medium-sized artichokes (or one 8-ounce package frozen artichoke hearts)*
- 5 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
- 2 large shallots, peeled, quartered, and sliced finely
- 1 1/2 Cup dry white wine
- 1 Teaspoon saffron threads, gently pounded in a mortar to a coarse powder
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely plus 1 whole clove, peeled
- 2 1/2 Cups water
- 2 Cups Israeli couscous
- 1 Teaspoon sea salt
- 2 medium-sized, young carrots, peeled and cut into 1/8-by-1-inch sticks
- 4 Ounces shelled fresh or frozen peas
- 8 Ounces asparagus, trimmed and cut on a bias into 1-inch pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 Ounces pea shoots, chopped into 2-inch pieces (or baby arugula)
- Crumbled goat-milk feta or fresh goat cheese, for garnish
Fill a medium-sized bowl with cold water and add the lemon juice. If using fresh artichokes, trim the artichokes by bending back the outer leaves until they snap off close to the base. Repeat until only the tender yellow leaves remain.
Slice 2 inches off the top and dip the artichokes in the lemon-water. Cut the stems off at the base. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the dark green parts around the heart and down the stems (the stems are edible).
Quarter the artichoke hearts lengthwise, remove the choke, and slice into ¼-inch-thick slices. Cut the stems into ¼-inch-thick slices. Place all slices in the lemon-water until ready to use.
Drain the artichoke slices and shake off excess water. Heat a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat. Add ¼ cup of the olive oil and the artichoke slices. Toss well and sauté until golden, tossing only a couple of times, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the shallots and sauté until softened, about 1-2 minutes. Add the wine, saffron, and chopped garlic. Bring to a full boil and then reduce heat to between medium and medium-low. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. In a medium-sized saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add the couscous, ½ teaspoon of the salt, remaining olive oil, and garlic. Stir well and simmer vigorously for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and cover the pot. Let stand for 20-25 minutes until the couscous has absorbed all the liquid. Flake with a fork and keep warm.
While the couscous is standing, continue preparing the braised vegetables. Add the carrots to the artichokes, toss well, cover the pan, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the peas and asparagus, toss well, cover the pan, and continue to simmer until the asparagus are tender but still a bit crunchy, about 5-7 minutes.
Uncover the pan. Raise heat to high, add the remaining salt, and season with black pepper, to taste. Add the pea shoots. Toss until the pea shoots are wilted, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Immediately remove from the heat.
To serve, spoon the Israeli couscous in shallow bowls. Top with the braised vegetables. Drizzle with the pan juices. Garnish with a little crumbled cheese and additional olive oil. Serve immediately.