Tag Archives: Israeli Couscous

Roasted Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad

in white round bowlHope life is treating you well this week. We are in full-on purge mode around here. We’re planning to downsize shortly. It’s amazing the amount of junk you can accumulate in 23 years.  Getting rid of stuff is not my husband’s forte. He still has all his high school essays. (He got an A+ in his Family Studies paper on “The cost of setting up a home for newlyweds” – it was the 70’s!) He kept all the cards from our wedding. We have been married for over 30 years. He also kept every birthday and father’s day card from me and the kids.

I wasn’t hopeful that he would be able to dispose of very much. But once he began shredding, he couldn’t stop. And then he discovered Kijiji. Things have been flying out of here at an alarming rate. It has become quite cathartic for him. I’m afraid that if I stay still for too long he might put me up for sale on Kijiji. I can just imagine the ad:

“Pre-owned, but very well-maintained wife for sale. All parts original. A little slow to start up in the morning, but motor begins purring after an extra-hot latte.” Will accept any reasonable offers.”

This salad was inspired by a forgotten bag of Israeli couscous I discovered sitting at the back of my pantry in a cleaning spree. The addition of roasted butternut squash is the clever idea of Daniel Gritzer over at seriouseats.com. Start by toasting the uncooked Israeli couscous in a bit of olive oil.Toasting cous cousAdd boiling water and salt and cook couscous.adding boiling waterI recently learned that squash is an excellent source of potassium. Apparently acorn squash is the champion, but butternut is a close second, and I find it much easier to peel. All those ridges in acorn squash scare me. If you need a primer on peeling and cutting butternut, check out the video in this post.chopping squash Toss squash with some olive oil, salt and pepper. Add some smoked paprika too, because everything is better with smoked paprika.ready for roastingA jolt of freshness is provided by lots of green (scallions, mint and parsley) and yellow (lemon).lemon and herbsready to assemble

Click here to print recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash and Israeli Couscous Salad.

in white oval bowl

 

Israeli Couscous with Pickled Shallots, Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata

in green bowl 1 625 sqI have never understood the appeal of traditional couscous. It simply does not have enough texture or heft for me. Even when steamed and fluffed properly, so that the grains stay separate, it fails to satisfy me. I like my carbs with a bit of bite to them. Israeli couscous is more my jam. It is dense with a bouncy, chewy texture. I had always assumed that Israeli couscous was just bigger balls of regular couscous. I only recently learned the true difference.

Traditional couscous is actually tiny ground pasta made from semolina flour. It is made by rubbing semolina between wet hands until teeny-tiny balls are formed. The couscous is then dried and steamed. Israeli couscous is also made from semolina flour, but the similarities end there. Israeli couscous is made by mixing semolina flour with water, into a dough. The dough is then machine extruded through a round mould, about 1 millimetre in size.  These tiny pearls are then toasted dry, which adds a nutty flavour. 

Traditional couscous has been around, some believe, since the 9th century, but Israeli couscous is just a baby. It only came into existence in the 1950’s. Following the War of Independence in 1948, many immigrants arrived in the newly formed country from all over the Middle East. Most of them relied on rice as a staple in their cuisine, but there were rice shortages. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, asked the Osem food company to develop something that they could substitute for their beloved rice. They created “Ptitim“. It was nicknamed Ben Gurion rice, since it was originally extruded in the shape of rice grains. They later introduced a round version which they called Israeli couscous.

This delicious salad is my adaptation of a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I have only made a slight change. I substituted ricotta salata for the feta cheese they suggested. I prefer the drier texture and less salty taste of ricotta salata. Many Italian grocers carry it. Feel free to use feta if you like, or even some crumbled goat cheese, if that’s your thing.

Begin with pickling the shallots. Nothing too complicated here. You will need red wine vinegar, sugar, a pinch of salt and some thinly sliced shallots. ingredients for picklingSimmer vinegar, sugar and salt until the sugar dissolves. Add shallots, turn off heat, cover pot and let macerate for 30 minutes. That’s it. I always thought pickling was so complicated. pickling shallotsTo properly cook Israeli couscous, begin by sauteeing in a bit of olive oil until about half the grains turn brown. Then add water and a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook covered for 12 minutes. The ratio of Israeli couscous to water is 1:1.25.  (For every cup of couscous, add 1¼ cups water)toasted cous cousOnce cooked, spread couscous out on a baking sheet to allow it to cool before tossing with other salad ingredients. cooling couscousPrepare the dressing. The mild flavour of couscous can stand up to a bracing dressing of Dijon, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and olive oil.making dressingThen it’s simply a matter of assembly. I thawed some green peas (no cooking necessary), drained the pickled shallots, washed some baby arugula and mint, toasted and chopped pistachios and diced up the cheese. Sugar snap peas or asparagus would also be excellent friends with this salad. ready to assembleI loved the combination of all these ingredients. Chewy, nutty couscous, bitter arugula, sweet mint, crunchy pistachios, salty cheese and the zingy pickled shallots. Each bite had me craving more. in white bowl

Click here to print recipe for Israeli Cous Cous with Pickled Shallots Peas, Mint and Ricotta Salata.

in green bowl 2

Israeli Cous Cous Salad and A Generosity of Spirit

with cheese and slicer 625 sqI was visiting with my nephew and his girlfriend last month and she asked me a question that kind of shocked me and got me thinking. She has been following my blog for a while now and she wondered if I gave out the real recipes, or if I held back and left out an ingredient or a crucial step in the recipe. Huh??

I assured her that I always gave the legitimate recipe and included every step, plus probably a few extra (sometimes my recipes run long!), to ensure success. As we chatted a bit longer I understood where her question was coming from. She was born in Venezuela and the culture in her family was to guard their recipes very carefully. Perhaps the idea of secret family recipes stems from one generation wanting to pass something valuable down to the next. After all , many imigrant families came to North America with nothing of material value. All they had were these recipes from the “old country” to pass on to their children and grandchildren.

This secretive behaviour is the antithesis of how food bloggers operate. I have been blogging since 2009 and have come to discover that most of us approach food blogging with a generosity of spirit. We are a giving bunch, willing to share our knowledge and expertise. There is actually a code of ethics for food bloggers. Acknowledging sources and linking to others that provided inspiration is part of the modus operandi. We are a passionate bunch, but humble as well, fessing up to our flaws and our less than perfect results.

I have found my tribe and I feel blessed to be a part of this generous fraternity of food bloggers. 

This salad was inspired by a similar recipe in the July 2014 issue of Bon Appetit.

While ripe, warm-from-the-vine summer tomatoes are still a few months away, roasting or grilling tomatoes can bring out the sweetness in any tomato. Begin by coating some grape or cherry tomatoes and corn with a few glugs of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. A few fresh rosemary sprigs will perfume the whole lot. ready for roastingIsraeli couscous is 2-3 times larger than the traditional North African couscous. While both are made from semolina and wheat flour, Israeli couscous is toasted while the North African variety is simply dried. The toasting gives it a nutty taste and chewier texture. I like to give it an additional toasting in a bit of olive oil, before cooking it in water. toasting cous cousI decided to serve it on a bed of mixed lettuces (arugula, belgian endive, radicchio and pea shoots), but you could also serve it without. Some toasted sliced almonds add great crunch and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese add a wonderful salty accent. I added some pickled shallots because I love the bright acidity that pickling brings to the party.close up

Click here to print recipe for Israeli Couscous Salad.

In the spirit of generosity, here are some of my favourite food bloggers!
Caroline of The Patterned Plate.
Steph of Raspberri Cupcakes.
Bobbi of Bob Vivant.
Hannah of Honey and Jam. (she has a new cookbook coming out very soon!)
Tara and Maria’s cookin’ and shootin’.
Kellie of Le Zoe Musings.
Wendy of The Monday Box.
Joy of Joy the Baker.
Ashley of Not without Salt. (Her beautiful new cookbook just came out!)
Lindsey of Dolly and Oatmeal.
Rosie of Sweetapolita. (Check out her gorgeous new cookbook.)
Belinda of The Moonblush Baker.
Phyllis of dash and bella.
Jessie of CakeSpy.
Thalia of butter and brioche.
Molly of My Name is Yeh.
Tara of Seven Spoons. (See her lovely new cookbook)