If you’ve never had Israeli couscous you must definitely give it a chance! It’s one of those things that may appeal to many as in itself it’s tasteless. But because of that it’s extremely versatile, just like any other pasta as that’s what ptitim is: an Israeli toasted pasta shaped like cute, little balls.
Since it’s a pasta you would prepare it just like any other pasta. However, I like to make it risotto style – takes longer and requires constant attention but it’s way more flavorful. So I first sauté it lightly in a pan with a little bit of garlic and olive oil; then I start adding low sodium chicken stock one ladle at a time. This means that I don’t go paint my nails while the couscous
boils. No, I use this time to chop my favorite ingredients for it: olives, roasted red peppers, and Italian parsley. But mind you, you can go nuts with the ingredients: capers, mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, chorizo, etc. whatever tickles your fancy. But the method of preparation would be pretty much the same:
- One box of Trader Joe’s Israeli Couscous (2 cups)
- One box of Trader Joe’s Organic low sodium chicken broth (this is also fat free, low calorie and gluten free) – that’s 4 cups of liquid
- One cup of chopped Trader Joe’s pitted Greek Kalamata olives with extra virgin olive oil (you can never have enough olives!)
- One cup of chopped Trader Joe’s fire roasted red peppers
- Chopped Italian parsley: me, being raised close to the Mediterranean, I like the taste of parsley a lot but if not sure you may want to go easy on it;
- Three garlic cloves, finely chopped
- About two tablespoons of olive oil (between you and I: I never really measure the oil. Shhhh!);
- Half a cup of white wine. I like to use a Pinot Grigio in my cooking but pretty much any white table wine will do – the wine livens up the flavors. Plus it’s wine so I don’t really discriminate!
- Lemon juice.
In a saucepan heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add the garlic and the couscous, stirring until they brown slightly, about 2-4 minutes. Add the wine to the pan and stir until it is fully absorbed by the couscous. Add a ladle of the chicken broth and stir until the liquid is absorbed, then add another ladle of broth and repeat the process until the couscous is fully cooked. Unlike rice couscous will cook faster so try it once in a while and stop pouring the stock at the consistency you like and let it absorb completely – some like their past al dente, I like mine tender and soft.
If you’ve added all the stock and the couscous isn’t soft enough for you, use hot water instead of stock to finish the cooking process. Just add the water a ladle at a time, stirring while it’s absorbed.
Ok now simply transfer the cooked couscous to a bowl and add the chopped peppers, olives and parsley, mix, add some lemon juice and voilà!! The olives and peppers will typically contain enough sodium and won’t require any more salt (or pepper) but you can definitely add them to your taste. Try it with the pacific flounder with crabmeat stuffing from Trader Joe’s, my favorite pairing!!
- This recipe is great as leftovers too – it’s just as good cold as it is warm.
- While couscous is really a side dish, it’s very versatile so you can also eat it cold mixed with various vegetables as a salad. If you’re not sure just try this “Peace in the Middle East Salad” from the Pomegranate Diaries, chronicles of Persian cooking (I know, the irony is not lost here – that’s what makes this an awesome recipe to try!).
- You can also add it to your soups, like you would use orzo.
- Make it kid friendly by simply serving it with some chicken nuggets!