Friday, April 27, 2012

Beef Kebabs with Couscous

Recipe modified by You Want Me to Cook? – April 24, 2011
For a commentary-free and printer-friendly version of it, please click here.

Beef Kebabs with Couscous recipe originally published in Food Network Magazine – April 2012.

I’m trying to expand my repertoire a little.  I serve a lot of dishes on a bed of pasta or rice.  It’s not a bad thing, but I like to switch things up and try new things as often as possible.  On this day, I decided to try my hand at couscous and Middle Eastern cuisine. 

This recipe seemed like a great place to start.  Meat marinated in simple (but unique to my palate) flavors and couscous which is as easy to make as rice.

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Beef Kebabs with Couscous
The tomatoes and onion alone make me want to go grab the leftovers.  Who cares if it is after midnight?!?!?!  I love charred vegetables and I managed to get it perfect.  My meat looks a little dry, but that could very well be my fault since I used a different cut of steak, but more on that later.

© Food Network

Their couscous looks perfect.  I think I had issues on two fronts.  First, was how I cooked it (more on that in the Directions section.) and that I didn’t fluff it right away.  Also the specific type of couscous they used (read more about Israeli couscous in the Ingredients section).  Those pearls just look beautiful though.  At least my tomatoes and onion are comparable and I got the right char on my meat.

for more details about what my ratings mean, go to Gretchen’s Rating System

MessEH – The equipment was manageable and none of the prep was elaborate.  So why the EH rating?  Because is it messy and rather unpleasant threading marinated steak onto wooden skewers.  I got the marinade on the cabinets, floor and possibly a pug. 

I’m not sure.  He always looks this way.

Start-to-Finish Time: AROUND 90 MINUTES – Part of the extended time was because I had to grill my onions and kebabs separately, but I think you probably could get it done faster if you pre-marinade your meat.

Prep Work: SLIGHT BLOOD LOSS – I was annoyed with having to chop herbs.  I always get that way with herbs, but at least they didn’t have to be minced or petite cut.  I had a big issue trimming my meat too.  I think I bought more gristle than meat.  I may have to go elsewhere to buy my meat.  There’s a great butcher across from the grocery store.  I’d rather spend a little extra cash for a great cut (and the proper cut) of meat.

Ease of Recipe: THE BASICS – Technically, I’ve never tried couscous before, but it was like making instant rice.  Grilling meat is probably the easiest way to cook meat as well.

OverallNOT BAD – The meat was a little dry and the couscous could have used a little more salt and pepper.  Still, I would try it again if asked, but this time using the right cut of meat and seasoning the couscous more.

Recipe Information:
I am not a doctor or dietician.  I make my nutritional assessments with the aid of Spark Recipes.  I run the original recipe and my altered recipe through their calorie counter and then compute the differences I find.  My numbers are to be used as a guideline.  Anyone who is under dietary medical supervision should follow the advice of their medical professional if their opinion differs from mine.  PLEASE!

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes

The average serving of meat based protein is 2-3 ounces per serving.  This recipe has 1.25 pounds (or 20 ounces), so that’s a very over-sized portion of meat.  However, by the time I trimmed the fat and gristle off my meat, I probably had less than a pound left, so the servings may be accurate.  However, if you’ve got 5 or 6 people to feed and you find a trimmed steak the right size, you should be fine if you’re serving with a salad.

As for their timing… it made me laugh.  The meat has to marinade 20 minutes, yet their prep time is 15 minutes (I’m going under the assumption that their definition of prep includes all hands-on work in the recipe).  There is no way you can make this dish in 35 minutes as specified.

Here is how my timing worked out:
  • Prep: 17 minutes
  • Hands-on Time: 13 minutes
  • Bake Time: 38 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 24 minutes
A couple of things affected my timing.  First, I had a difficult time trimming and cutting up the meat.  I thought I had picked a non-fatty piece, but I was mistaken.  There was also a lot of gristle that had to be cut around.  Second, my grill pan was not large enough to accommodate both the kebabs and onion which are supposed to be cooked at the same time.  All of that being figured into my time, I’d still say their estimate of 35 minutes is only half the time you’ll need for this dish.

Nutritional Information:
  • 589 calories
  • 28 g fat
  • 6 g saturated fat
  • 98 mg cholesterol
  • 314 mg sodium
  • 47 g carbohydrate
  • 4 g fiber
  • 35 g protein
I wasn’t surprised to see the nutritional information on this one.  It isn’t unreasonable and you can definitely lower the numbers by eating smaller portions.  The sodium was manageable which made me quite happy.  The fat was a little scary, but then I noticed only 6 grams of it was saturated.

This intrigued me.  Since I always run the ingredients through my nutrition tool, I wanted to see if there were a lot of healthy fats.

I always run their ingredients and servings through a separate nutrition tool, so I plugged the ingredients and got the following:
  • Calories 421.6
  • Total Fat 22.4 g
  • Saturated Fat 4.1 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 1.9 g
  • Cholesterol 85.1 mg
  • Sodium 228.7 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 19.9 g
  • Dietary Fiber 2.3 g
  • Sugars 0.0 g
  • Protein 33.2 g
I couldn’t find a tri-tip steak in my calculator tool, so I went with what I used (I couldn’t find a tri-tip in the store either).  I’m guessing it must have been a less fatty piece of meat since it scaled down the numbers a little.  I was interested that the mono- and poly-unsaturated fat numbers were as low as they were.  I’m a little less impressed now.

I re-ran the numbers again using the products that I used (instead of using the generic products in the nutritional calculator).  Much to my surprise, I got these numbers:
  • Calories 599.4
  • Total Fat 23.5 g
  • Saturated Fat 4.1 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 2.8 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 14.4 g
  • Cholesterol 85.1 mg
  • Sodium 231.4 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 58.6 g
  • Dietary Fiber 3.7 g
  • Sugars 1.2 g
  • Protein 40.0 g
Huh.  Notice the healthy fats?  They definitely increased and a lot of the other “bad” numbers went down.  It does pay to read the labels.  This recipe is also chock-full of Vitamin B-12 which is important to the functioning of the brain and nervous system and the formation of red blood cells.

Changes denoted by red text

© You Want Me to Cook?
Beef Kebabs with Couscous - ingredients
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1-1/4 pounds Choice Top Sirloin Steak, cut into 1-inch pieces
1-1/2 cups Israeli couscous
2 cups water
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 large red onion, cut into 4 thick rounds
4 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
Fit Wash

Ingredient Notes:
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil – Definitely pull out your good stash for this recipe.  The marinade is the key to giving the meat its flavor.

Rosemary – You can buy tiny amounts of rosemary at reasonable prices and I would highly recommend using fresh if you can find it.  If you can’t, substitute 1/2-teaspoon of dried rosemary.

Choice Top Sirloin – The original recipe called for a tri-tip steak, but upon arriving at the butcher in my local grocery, I was told they didn’t carry it anymore.  That kind of confused me a little.  Apparently they didn’t cut theirs on site and it came pre-packaged, so I did a little research.  A tri-tip steak is cut from a tri-tip roast which is practically made for barbequing, but you have to be really careful to keep the meat from getting too tough.  Of course, the key to keeping the meat tender is by trimming the fat AFTER it’s cooked.  I’m not sure how you’d do that when you have to cut up the meat into 1” cubes.  Apparently it is really popular on the West Coast, but hard to get elsewhere, which may explain a couple things.  So anyway, I was told that a good substitute would be a choice top sirloin by the grocery store’s butcher, but from what I’ve researched, I should have gone for a shell roast.

Israeli Couscous – I looked for Israeli couscous and thought I had found it, but apparently I was mistaken.  Upon further reading, Israeli couscous is also called “ptitim” and it is a larger baked wheat similar to the pasta orzo.  That could explain a couple of differences in my

Parsley – Buying an entire bunch for 2 tablespoons might end up being a waste.  However, the fresh parsley is a significant part of the couscous.  I’m not sure I’d substitute dry for the fresh… I would just leave it out.

Equipment Needed:

© You Want Me to Cook?
Beef Kebabs with Couscous - equipment
Cutting Board
Raw-Meat Cutting Board
(2) Sharp Knives
(4) Wooden Skewers
Bowl/Dish large enough to submerge wooden skewers
Large Bowl
Small Saucepan
Large Spoon
Medium Bowl
Spoon - Mixing
Large Grill Pan
Pastry Brush

Equipment Notes:
Cutting Boards and Sharp Knives – You are going to be cutting up raw meat, so you want to use a plastic cutting board instead of a wooden one (raw meat juices can seep into wood and contaminate it).  Do you need to use two different cutting boards if they are both plastic?  Not necessarily, but I prefer to keep two different ones just in case.  The same goes for the knives.  If you are planning on using the same board and knife for all chopping, make sure you do all the vegetables first and then follow with the meat.

Wooden Skewers and Bowl to soak them – I like wooden skewers, but if you have metal ones, they’ll work just fine too… and you won’t have to soak them in water!

(1)   Soak 4 wooden skewers in water, 20 minutes.
Make sure that they are completely submerged for the 20 minutes.  Any part out of the water will dry immediately.
© You Want Me to Cook?
Beef Kebabs with Couscous
(2)  Meanwhile, whisk 1/4 cup olive oil, the vinegar, rosemary, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste in a large bowl.

(3)  Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marinade, then add the steak to the bowl with the remaining marinade and toss; set aside at room temperature, 20 minutes.

(4)  Cook the couscous as the label directs.
My couscous was cooked with 2 cups of water and I was supposed to add a tablespoon of olive oil to the water.  Since the directions to the recipe have me tossing the couscous with olive oil in the next step, I left it out.  I think that may have been one of the reasons my couscous didn’t have the defined pearls as that of the recipe.
Making this was very similar to making instant rice.  Bring the water to a boil; add couscous; cover and leave for 5 minutes.  Fluff when rice when done.
(5)  Toss with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

(6)  While the couscous is cooking, preheat a large grill pan over high heat.

© You Want Me to Cook?
Beef Kebabs with Couscous
(7)  Thread the steak onto the skewers.

(8)  Toss the onion rounds and tomatoes in a bowl with the reserved 2 tablespoons marinade.
I initially put the tomatoes in with the onion rounds, but I had issues getting everything coated, so I removed the tomatoes and tossed the onion rounds first.  A little later in the directions, I instruct you with what you should do with the tomatoes.
(9)  Brush the grill pan with olive oil and add the kebabs and onion rounds.
I didn’t have enough room to place the kebabs AND onion rounds in the pan at the same time, so I cooked the kebabs first.
© You Want Me to Cook?
Beef Kebabs with Couscous
(10)  Cook the kebabs, turning a few times, until charred all over, 8 to 10 minutes for medium rare.
Be extremely careful not to overcook the beef.  The beef should be a little springy, so cook it for one minute on each side and press it lightly with your finger.  I went 2 minutes per side and it ended up a little tough.  If you still aren’t sure, you can use a quick read thermometer to make sure it doesn’t overcook.
(11)  Transfer the kebabs to a plate and add the onion to the grill pan. Brush with additional olive oil if necessary.

(12)  Toss the tomatoes in the same bowl as the onions with the remainder of the reserved 2 tablespoons marinade.

© You Want Me to Cook?
Beef Kebabs with Couscous
(13)  Cook the onion, turning once, until charred and tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
I did two minutes per side and they were cooked perfectly.
(14)  Transfer onion to the plate with the kebabs and season both with salt.

© You Want Me to Cook?
Beef Kebabs with Couscous
(15)  Add the tomatoes to the pan, cut-side down, and cook, turning once, until charred and softened, about 4 minutes.

(16)  Serve the kebabs with the couscous, tomatoes and onion.

So my meat was a little tough, but that was my fault.  I’m sure I overcooked it and I didn’t select the right cut of beef.  That being said, it was still quite tasty.

If I were to make it again:
  • I would search a little harder for the tri-tip steak.  I have an actual butcher very close to my house.  I’m sure with a little planning they can make sure they have one ready for me.
  • I would search a little harder for Israeli couscous.
I’m not going to give up on Middle Eastern cooking.  I will try again!  As always… Happy Cooking!!!

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