Israeli couscous is relatively new to the food scene in the U.S. It was originally developed in Israel in the 1950s as an alternative to rice, but only became popular in the United States in the 1990s, and has, in the last ten years, become a more readily accessible ingredient for the general public.
Israeli couscous is made from balls of wheat, similar to tiny pasta such as orzo, but with a more nutty flavor. It is toasted rather than dried, and looks like a larger version of regular couscous, but is in fact not related. Prepare Israeli couscous by first toasting it in a pan with oil, then adding water and boiling until soft and chewy. The couscous by itself is a bit bland, but that makes it the perfect canvas for creativity in the kitchen. Add some chicken stock or some fresh herbs and spices, and you’ve got yourself something that’s not quite pasta, but definitely not regular couscous, and is delicious hot or cold.
The first time I ate Israeli couscous was in a cold salad with spinach, feta cheese, olives, and a drizzle of balsamic dressing. It was delightful. A perfect summer lunch or, with added protein, a light dinner. Add in some cucumbers or red onion, or experiment with other salad ingredients.
If you aren’t a cold-salad-with-grains kind of person, check out these other ways to use Israeli couscous in your kitchen.
- Serious Eat’s Eggplant and Tomato Sauce with Israeli Couscous
- Martha Stewart’s Israeli Couscous with Parsley and Shallots
- The Food Network’s Israeli Couscous with Applies, Cranberries and Herbs
- Bon Appetit’s Israeli Couscous with Asparagus, Peas and Sugar Snaps
- The Food Republic’s Israeli Couscous with Chicken Sausage and Over-Easy Eggs
- Flavor and Flora’s Curried Israeli Couscous
- David Lebovitz’s Israeli Couscous with Butternut Squash and Preserved Lemons