Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts

Whether you call it seksu, kuskus, or keskesu, couscous is a versatile and delicious dish. This North African staple has been around for centuries, traveling all over and leaving recipes in medieval cookbooks from Morocco to Brittany.

These tiny round grains of semolina pasta may be steamed or simmered in a variety of broths and served as a main course or side dish. I prefer the larger version, called pearl or Israeli couscous, and I’ve been making gorgeous salads with it all summer.

Israeli/pearl couscous comes in many flavors and may be made of different grains, such as barley or whole wheat. For this recipe, I used a tri-color semolina couscous for a festive touch and simmered it in homemade vegetable broth. We enjoyed it with grilled fish and steamed veggies, but this would be an outstanding side dish for a multitude of main courses.

3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil                       1¾ cups pearl couscous
1 large shallot, chopped                            2 cups simmering broth
4 scallions, white parts chopped,             1 tsp. salt
       green stems sliced into rounds          ½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped                        Fresh parsley, chopped

1.  Heat 2 Tbs. olive oil in a deep sauté pan (I use a non-stick pan for this recipe). Add the shallot and scallion whites and stir until tender and just starting to brown, about 7 minutes.

2.  Stir in remaining Tbs. olive oil and garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add the couscous and stir until the granules are coated with oil and no longer clump together, 2-3 minutes.

3.  Stir in heated broth and salt. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, 10-12 minutes, until broth is absorbed. Stir occasionally.

4.  Remove from heat. Stir in half the pine nuts and the parsley. Garnish with scallion greens and serve, passing the rest of the pine nuts at the table. Leftovers reheat well. Serves 4-6.

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