You may have heard of pearl couscous as Israeli couscous or Jerusalem couscous -or you may not have heard of it at all and you may be wondering about it. Here you’ll find more interesting facts about this staple.
Pearl couscous is a small toasted pasta-like product that can be used like rice, quinoa, or any other whole grain. In fact, it is often mistakenly defined as a whole grain, but it is actually made from semolina or wheat flour. So, if you were asking yourself “is Israeli couscous gluten free?”, the answer is no. However, it is a healthy and high-fiber food since it has a low glycemic index.
From rags to riches
Ptitim -the name by which this dish actually goes by in Israel- is technically not couscous, which is instead finely grained. While it is unclear when North African couscous originated, Israeli couscous is relatively modern. It was born from necessity during the austerity period in Israel, back in the early 1950s, devised upon request of then Prime Minister Ben Gurion as a more affordable substitute for rice.
Even though it was originally a family staple, nowadays it is cooked also as a side dish or even as a dessert. With time, it has become nostalgic comfort food for Israelis and a tasty and popular alternative to rice or pasta for people all around the globe.
Getting down to business
Such as rice or pasta, pearl couscous is versatile and can be cooked in many different ways. If you want to use it for a salad, you should first cook it and drain it. However, there are dishes where you would use a no-drain method and cook it directly with broth or sauce.
Below you can find a warm vegan dish on the one hand, and a cold dish on the other. Hopefully, these two options will inspire your next meals.
Pearl Couscous with vegetables
- 2 cups of Israeli couscous.
- 4 cups of vegetable broth.
- 3 tbsp of olive oil.
- 1 lb. cremini mushrooms, halved.
- 2 garlic cloves, minced.
- 3 tbsp of white wine.
- 1/4 cup of finely chopped parsley.
- 1/2 tsp salt.
- 1 tsp dried thyme.
- Black pepper (better if freshly ground).
You may substitute the mushrooms with another vegetable or tofu. Also, if you are not vegan, you may even use grilled fish, chicken, or another protein.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the couscous, stir thoroughly to achieve even roasting, and cook for 3 -4 minutes.
- When it is lightly toasted, add the broth. Let it boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, use the remaining olive oil to cook the garlic and mushrooms over medium heat. Add the white wine and stir often.
- After five minutes, add the dried thyme, parsley, and salt. Keep cooking and stirring for three to four minutes.
- Once the couscous is tender and the mushrooms have released most of the moisture, combine them by adding the couscous to the mushrooms’ saucepan and tossing.
- A pinch of salt and pepper if required, and your Israeli couscous will be ready.
Israeli Couscous Summer Salad
- 1 ½ C Israeli couscous.
- 2 cups of chicken broth.
- 11 oz (320 g) of chicken.
- 1 ¾ oz (50 g) of feta cheese, crumbled.
- 1 cup of water.
- 1 yellow capsicum, roasted and sliced.
- ¼ cup of pine nuts, toasted.
- 2 cups of arugula leaves.
- 1 red capsicum, roasted and sliced.
- ¼ cup of chopped parsley or coriander.
- 1 handful of fresh mint leaves.
- In a saucepan, heat some olive oil and cook the couscous over medium heat. Don’t forget to stir frequently for the couscous grains to toast evenly.
- Once it is lightly toasted, add water, chicken broth, and salt to taste.
- After it boils, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes over low heat.
- Remove from heat when the couscous is tender, drain if necessary.
- Put the couscous in a separate bowl and let it cool.
- Add fresh herbs, rocket leaves, chicken, and roasted capsicums.
For this salad, a dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and smoked or regular paprika is recommended.