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Couscous with Asparagus and Toasted Pistachio Vinaigrette
From The Ultimate Pasta Cookbook (Canada, UK), by Pasquale Bruno Jr.

This is a wonderfully aromatic and sensuous dish with textures that range from silky-soft to crunchy. Though this dish is best served hot, it can also be served at room temperature. The pistachio vinaigrette is best when it stands overnight at room temperature.

Ingredients:

Pistachio vinaigrette

1/4 pound salted shelled pistachios
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

The rest:

1 bunch asparagus
8 large shiitake mushrooms
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2-1/4 cups water
1-1/2 cups quick-cooking couscous
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Place pistachios on a baking sheet and toast for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let the nuts cool. Put the pistachios in a food processor and process until they are ground fine. Warm the olive oil over medium heat. With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil through the feed tube. Pour the pistachio oil into a glass jar and let it stand, covered, overnight at room temperature. Strain the oil through a fine strainer into a salad dressing cruet. Stir in or shake in the balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 450°F (205°C). Rinse the asparagus under cold running water. Cut about 1 inch off the root end of the asparagus and cut each stalk into 2-inch pieces. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and julienne. In a mixing bowl, toss the asparagus, mushrooms, and thyme with the olive oil. Roast the asparagus-mushroom mixture in the oven until the asparagus is still crisp yet cooked through (about 8 minutes).

While the aspargus is roasting, make the couscous. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the couscous and stir. Remove the pan from the heat, cover it tightly, and let it stand until the couscous absorbs the liquid (about 5 minutes). Transfer the couscous to a large serving bowl. Add salt and pepper. Fold in the roasted asparagus-mushroom mixture and stir to combine. Add the chickpeas. Drizzle 1/2 cup of the pistachio vinaigrette over the couscous and toss again. The pistachio vinaigrette stands alone as a tasty dressing for a mixed green salad.

Yield: Serves 4



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