Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscous, also called maftoul or pearl couscous, is a larger version made from durum wheat.   Maftoul is popular in Israel as well as in much of the Middle East.  Trader Joe’s sells Israeli couscous complete with a recipe on the box (this recipe actually comes from Bon Apetit).  I decided to give this recipe a try, but made a few changes of my own.  First, I used tiny bulb onions (large scallions) instead of shallots.  They both have the same mild onion flavor, but I already had these in my refrigerator.  Second, I substituted mixed nuts for pine nuts.  Pine nuts are more expensive and since my husband is not a huge fan, I used a mix of minced nuts that were smaller in size, thus being more inconspicuous.  The couscous came out light and dainty, but at the same time boasted bold, aromatic flavors that made my kitchen smell like a Middle Eastern bazaar.

You can serve this dish as its own meal or underneath fish, chicken, etc… I served the couscous along with grilled pork chops that had been rubbed with a mix of coriander, cumin, and all spice.  I wanted to create a rub that was indicative of a Middle Eastern dish, so that it would pair nicely with my couscous.  If you do not have a Trader Joe’s near you, you can look for Israeli couscous in the organic or the international sections in your local grocery store.  If they do not have it, you can use regular couscous or even risotto.  Cooking times will vary though.  Hope you try this one out… happy cooking!

Ingredients:

3 TBSP butter                                                          1 3/4 C chicken broth

1/2 C mixed nuts                                                    1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 C shallots or small bulb onion                  1/4 C fresh minced parsley

1.5 C Israeli couscous                                           Zest of 1/2 lemon

1/2 large stick of cinnamon                               Black pepper to taste

1 bay leaf

Directions:

Melt 1 TBSP. of butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add the nuts and stir until golden brown.  Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Melt the remaining butter in the same pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute until golden.  Add the couscous, cinnamon stick, and bay leaf.  Stir often until the couscous becomes a little brown.  Add the broth and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until all the chicken broth is absorbed (about 10 mins).*  Remove from the heat and add the parsley, nuts, and lemon zest.  Season with black pepper.  Serve warm or cold.

*Israeli couscous cooks much faster than I had thought.  I equated the cooking time to that of risotto.  However, it is much faster.  My couscous took about 10 minutes to become tender, so be sure to keep a faithful eye on it!

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