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Israeli Couscous

By Billa


Israeli couscous is not the same as traditional couscous. Traditional couscous is actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina flour. It is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until teeny-tiny balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and steamed.


Israeli couscous is also made from semolina flour, but the similarities end there. Israeli couscous is made by mixing semolina flour with water, into a dough. The dough is then machine extruded through a round mold, about 1 millimeter in size. These tiny pearls are then toasted dry, which adds a nutty flavor. Unlike traditional couscous, it is dense with a bouncy, chewy texture.

Also known as pearl couscous, Israeli couscous was developed in Israel in the 1950’s. It was created to feed the vast numbers of newly arrived immigrants in the midst of food shortages. These days, it is considered a comfort food in Israel and is especially popular with children.

Lately, it has become a trendy food utilized by many chefs in this country.


I loved it as a child growing up in Israel and I still do. Here are three ways to enjoy it: in a soup, in a salad, and as a main pasta course.


A rainy, cold day this week called for soup. There was eggplant and celery in the fridge. I added some pantry ingredients, including Israeli couscous, and ended up with a soup that was wonderfully thick and flavorful, one I'll probably be making again and again in the future. It had a hint of the smoky flavor of the roasted eggplant, toned down by the celery, creating a smooth, velvety and luscious texture. The sumac gave it an exotic lemony tang. It turned out to be the perfect warming soup for a cold, wet evening.


Burnt Eggplant, Celery, and Israeli Couscous Soup

Serves 4


Ingredients

1 large eggplant

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

1/2 tablespoon ground cumin

1 and 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup chicken stock

1 and 1/4 cups water

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon sumac

1 teaspoon dried dill

1/4 cup Israeli couscous

Salt and black pepper to taste


Preparation

  1. Slice 1/3 off the eggplant crosswise and dice it. Place larger part of the eggplant on a baking sheet and broil for one hour, turning every 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, remove the peel.

  2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add diced eggplant and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the eggplant, place in a colander to drain, and salt lightly.

  3. Leaving one tablespoon of oil in the pan, sauté the onion, celery, and cumin for 7 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and sauté for another minute. Add the chicken stock, water, garlic, lemon juice, sumac, dill, salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 15 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, cook the Israeli couscous to al dente according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

  5. Add the roasted eggplant to the pan with the soup. Pour into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the diced eggplant and Israeli couscous to the soup, setting aside about a tablespoon of each for a garnish. Heat the soup for 2 minutes, then serve garnished with reserved eggplant and Israeli couscous.



To make the salad, I combine Israeli couscous with some of my favorite ingredients. The result is a melange of bold and assertive, mostly Greek flavors.

Israeli Couscous Salad

Serves 4


Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup Israeli couscous cooked al dente

12 Kalamata olives, sliced

8 sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, thinly sliced

4 hearts of palm stalks, sliced thinly across

1/2 small red onion, sliced thin

2 tablespoons crumbled feta

1 and 1/2 tablespoons chopped parsley


Preparation

  1. Make the dressing. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, and mustard.

  2. Place olives, tomatoes, hearts of palm, and onion in a salad bowl. Toss with dressing. Crumble feta on top and garnish with parsley.



When I need a quick dinner, I often make my Israeli couscous pasta dish. It’s simple, doesn’t require any special ingredients, but is still a very comforting and satisfying dish.


Israeli Couscous with Garlic and Lemon

Serves 4


Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

12 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cups Israeli couscous

1 lemon, zested and juiced

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, coarsely chopped, or 1 teaspoon dried

4 tablespoons grated parmesan


Preparation

  1. Heat olive oil in a small pan over low heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until golden, for a minute or two, not letting it brown.

  2. Cook the Israeli pasta per directions on the package until al dente. Drain and place in a serving bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to mix.

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2 Comments


Thank you Billa, all I have to say is YUM x 3! Love all the ingredients.

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Glad you like it.

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