Confetti Israeli Couscous
The kitchen is my fortress of solitude. I probably spend more free time in the kitchen rather than any other room in the house. I love cooking, enjoy the mindless chore of chopping and have unlimited patience when it comes to slowly making a roux.
Nonetheless, from time to time I enjoy the convenience of some precut vegetables, such as a bag of coleslaw mix or some chopped peppers and onions ready to toss into a pot. The other evening I planned to make shrimp scampi for dinner. I was going to serve each portion in an individual gratin dish and wanted a carbohydrate to have as a base. I decided to make Israeli Couscous as the large pearls would be perfect for soaking up the garlicky buttery scampi sauce.
Israeli couscous (also known as “ptitim,” pearl couscous or Jerusalem couscous) are small beads of semolina or wheat flour. According to Wikipedia, Israeli couscous was developed in the 1950’s at the request of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, when rice was a scarce commodity. Although the ingredients are similar to regular small couscous, the larger size gives Israeli couscous a wonderfully chewy texture. Unlike regular couscous, it is toasted which gives it a more complex flavor.
I generally use the same recipe each time I prepare Israeli couscous, lightly sautéing it with some onions and bell peppers before adding chicken stock, rather than water, for a bit more flavor. When I went to the store to buy the peppers and onions, I noticed a colorful box of riced vegetables - colorful cubes of precut carrots, broccoli and cauliflower - that were the same size as the Israeli couscous. This would add some color and extra flavor to my couscous. Perfect!
Although you can take the time to uniformly chop any vegetables you have on hand, riced vegetables are readily available in most produce and frozen food departments and are an extremely easy way to give your couscous some pizzazz. After sautéing the vegetables, the couscous cooks in less than 10 minutes.
CONFETTI ISRAELI COUSCOUS
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup finely minced onion
1½ cups riced vegetables (e.g. any combination of carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash)
2 cups Israeli couscous
2½ cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 teaspoon herbes de provence
Salt and pepper
Basil oil (optional)
In a large pot, sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent but not browned. Add the riced vegetables and continue sautéing until the vegetables are soft.
Add the couscous and stir for a minute to coat the pearls with oil and flavor. Add the broth and dried herbs, bring to a boil, then simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until the couscous is tender. Stir well before serving and add salt and pepper to taste.
Depending on what I’m serving with the Israeli couscous, I top it with a drizzle of basil oil for a bit more flavor.
Serves 4 to 6