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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pearl Couscous and a Recipe

Giada's Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Pearl Couscous and a Recipe
by Victoria Challancin

Note:  There are two types of couscous, the traditional North African and the larger pearl variety.  Don't mistake the two types of couscous in recipes, however, as the cooking methods aren't the same, nor are they interchangeable.  

Pearl couscous, like regular couscous, is simply a pasta, a pasta with a rich history.  The North African-style of the traditional small-grained, granular couscous may be more familiar to many readers, but the larger size is also well-liked and much used, especially in the Middle East where it is particularly popular in Jordan, Syria, and Jordan. Based on the ancient North African berkukes or seksu, pearl couscous has been eaten in the Middle East for centuries.  Often is is called matfoul, from the Palestinian Arabic word for it, or in Lebanon, mograbieh, a word that clearly signals its earlier North African (the Maghreb) roots.

In Israel, its history is both newer and a bit different.  The Osem food company, partly founded by Israel's first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, devised, during a rice shortage in the 1950s, a marketing campaign to promote a wheat-based rice substitute for the rice-dependent Mizrahi immigrants.  Pearl couscous, or ptitim, became an instant success.  So successful was this campaign, that the pasta became known as Israeli couscous.  Today it comes in a variety of shapes.

Whatever you call it, this thicker couscous is a culinary treasure, hardy enough to stand up to sauces.  Its chewy texture and nutty taste (from toasting) make it a versatile ingredient for hot side dishes, salads, and desserts as well.

The ever-entertaining Magali attempting to twirl pizza dough

Cook's Notes:  I chose to use this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, because I liked the variety and amounts of fresh herbs it contains.  Obviously, this could be changed in myriad ways.  Instead of using the sweet-tart dried cranberries, you might substitute cucumber, kalamata olives, and a sprinkle of feta--use fresh dill and dried oregano instead of the herbs used here.  A Mexican version might include some crunchy jícama, cilantro, tomatoes, cilantro, onion, and chile, such as jalapeño or serrano.  Various nuts and seeds could be substituted as well:  pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pecans, pistachios, cashews, and so on.  Other dried fruits would work if you like the addition of sweet:  dates, dried cherries, dried blueberries, and dried currants.  Change up the dressing as well with the addition of garam masala, ras el hanout, harissa, curry powder, or even just a bit of cumin and/or ground coriander.

Recipe:  Mediterranean Israeli Couscous Salad
(Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network)
Makes 6 servings

3 tablespoons extra-virgen olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-pound) box Israeli couscous (or any small pasta)
3 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 lemons, juiced
1 lemon, zested
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup, slivered almonds, toasted

In a medium saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the couscous and cook until toasted and lightly browned, stirring often, about 5 minutes.  Carefully add the stock, and the juice of 1 lemon, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the couscous is tender, but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain the couscous.

In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with the remaining olive oil remaining lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper and let cool.

Once the couscous is room temperature, add the fresh herbs, dried cranberries, and almonds.
toss to combine and serve.

 Angus, age 14 weeks, midst more general destruction and a few orchid leaves

Parting Shot:
 Blooms on my gorgeous "orchid" tree

©Victoria Challancin.  All Rights Reserved.

Like life, recipes are meant to be shared, but please ask permission before using photos or text.  Thanks!


Joan Nova said...

Interesting to learn the history of Israeli couscous. I didn't know about David Ben Gurion's involvement. I think I prefer that variety over the traditional couscous -- but, hey, I'm a pasta addict! said...

I have also tried her recipe and enjoyed it. As a matter of fact I saw it on her show last week. Another insteresting post and a lesson. Your pictures are lovely.

Hotly Spiced said...

I love the look of your pearl couscous salad. It is so beautifully presented on that gorgeous plate - you have a great collection of plates! And I'm sure if I twirled pasta dough I would end up in a situation just like your friend! xx

Eha said...

Oh dear :) ! Am laughing with Magala and at Angus, still with 'baby' feet, so competently posing for Mom!! Seriously am immediately filing that pearl couscous recipe: normally use the fine one, but am certain the Israeli kind is available locally. Love the variations suggested and am myself a big herb user - and, oh, that dish you have used truly is a beauty! Thanks :) !

Veronica of Muy Bueno said...

The recipe looks lovely...haven't had much couscous but do love the texture.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I really love the chewy texture of Israeli couscous. And as you say, it's so different from the other couscous entirely! :D

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I do enjoy pearl has such a nice texture. I love orchid trees...they are so beautiful when in bloom.

Mahmudul Hasan said...

That's such a great recipe indeed.I love this dish.Nice recipe.
Couscous recipes

buy runescape gold said...

'm joking using Magala and at Angus, nonetheless together with 'baby' toes, thus competently baring almost all pertaining to Mommy!! Seriously are immediately declaring that bead couscous recipke: typically make use of the great one, but are selected the actual Israeli kind is available in your area.Rs To Gold
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