Monday, May 7, 2012

Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscous or pearl couscous is a toasted pasta shaped like little balls (comparable to the size of rice grains). It's really delicious as a substitute for regular rice or rice pilaf, which is really appropriate because that's why it was invented in the first place - as a substitute during a time when rice was scarce.

My favorite way to prepare it is with plenty of vegetables and a sweet dressing.

Ingredients [serves 4]:
1 cup Israeli couscous
1-1/4 cup stock (I used chicken stock but vegetable stock would be great as well - especially for vegans/vegetarians; water can be used but water lacks flavor!)
salt & pepper, to taste
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon honey
1 zucchini
2 big handfuls baby bell peppers (about 1 cup chopped)
1/4 red onion (about 1/2 cup chopped)
1/4 cup golden raisins (optional)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
olive oil

**other vegetables that would be great in this: broccoli, asparagus, yellow squash, mushrooms, sugar snap peas, sundried tomatoes, green beans, corn - just look around the market and see what's in season.
I also like to add in a handful of golden raisins because the sweetness is nice and a big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for some spicy contrast.


Start by chopping the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
Then, prepare the couscous. I like to toast the pasta in a bit of oil over medium heat before adding the stock. What this does is ensures that the pasta doesn't get gummy and mush together and each grain retains its individual integrity. It takes about 15 minutes to finish cooking the pasta over low LOW heat - 10 minutes with the lid on and 5 minutes with the lid off.
Meanwhile, you can saute the vegetables in a bit of olive oil. You just want to cook it until everything's tender and they get a bit of good golden color. Then transfer the vegetables and any remaining oil to a big bowl and dress it with lemon and honey. Don't forget the raisins and hot pepper (unless you hate both of those ingredients). Then add in the couscous and toss everything together (gently). Add salt and pepper to taste.
And tada! A beautiful, colorful, flavorful side dish. This dish can be served either warm or cold.

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