ZAP Bites: Israeli Couscous with Asparagus, Peas and Sugar Snaps

ZB_5.26.15 Today, we're talking being a veggie, oh, and couscous.

Being a vegetarian has been an interesting journey, especially here in the food capital of the U.S. I didn't eat red meat for years, but decided to make the full transition about seven years ago and couldn't be happier. Whether for health, ethical or environmental reasons (I'll keep mine to myself), the food landscape has changed drastically for my kind. What used to be meals of pasta primavera (still a wedding favorite...) or eggplant Parmesan has evolved for the much better and much tastier.

Restaurants of all levels have embraced that diets no longer just encompass meat and potatoes, working to create special menus or specific items that are not only vegetarian-friendly, but vegan and gluten-free, as well. Gone are the days of overcooked pasta and heavily fried pieces of one of the less desirable veggies on the market. These are the days of inspired dishes, unique updates on classics (think veggie lasagna, chickpea burgers, etc..) and flavor-packed dishes that even the heaviest of meat-eaters can enjoy. All-in-all, it's a great time to be a veghead in Chicago.

Given these changes and circumstances, I still find it funny when people ask me that age-old (and tireless) question, "But, what do you eat?" Because these days, compared to seven years ago, the options seem endless. And in case you're still wondering what us veggies eat, I'm sharing one of my new favorite recipes that's not only delicious, but a perfect way to usher in this warmer weather below!

If this dish has got you jonsing for more vegetarian options or info, cookbooks are still your best friend. Many vegetarian cookbooks include a sample week's grocery list that make cooking up some tasty go-tos pretty simple. I'm also a firm believer in Pinterest for any and all things food-related. I also love the ease of Epicurious' app, which can help you whip up just about anything from the ingredients you have at hand. Finally, I encourage everyone to try out one of the new vegetarian (or classic) dishes popping up at restaurants throughout the city. You might be surprised by just how much you like it!


Serves 4-6 as a side Prep time: 15 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided • 2 large garlic cloves, minced and divided • 2 tablespoons lemon juice • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest • 1 1/3 cups Israeli (Pearl) Couscous • 1 3/4 cups vegetable stock • 14 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) thin asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces • 8 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) sugar snap peas, cut into 1/2-inch pieces • 1 cup shelled frozen sweet peas, defrosted • 1/3 cup finely diced scallions • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons oil, 1 garlic clove, lemon juice, and lemon zest; set dressing aside.

In a medium pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add couscous and a dash salt; sauté until most of couscous is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, increase heat, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 10 minutes, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls if too dry.

In the meantime, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over high heat in a large nonstick sauté pan. Add asparagus, sugar snap peas, green peas, and remaining garlic clove. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl.

Add couscous to bowl with vegetables. Drizzle dressing over. Add scallions and cheese; toss. Season with salt and pepper. Serve right away or at room temperature.

Recipe and image via Very Culinary.

- Stephanie Poquette, Account Supervisor