Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts

In case you aren’t familiar, Israeli couscous is completely different from normal couscous. The regular couscous, which you’ve probably had before, is a middle eastern grain dish, shaped like little tiny dots of pasta. It cooks like rice, and is good for just about anything you’d use rice for. It’s quite tasty, and there are more and more options available in the regular grocery store these days: different flavors, different varieties, different brands. David’s not crazy about it, but Leah and I like couscous a lot.

In contrast, Israeli couscous rather than being made from a grain directly, is just small pearls of pasta. It has a lot in common with Orzo, actually, but the pasta is smaller and completely round.

This recipe, from the Bon Apetit Fast, Easy, Fresh cookbook, was pretty simple to make, but very, flavorful. The cooking method reminds me of a risotto, and maybe that’s why it shouldn’t surprise me that the couscous thickened like a risotto, and took on a sort of creamy texture. The toasted pine nuts added a lot of flavor to the dish as well. We had this with the Valentine’s Day Pork Chops, but I’m sure we’ll make it again. It was really good, and a nice change of pace from our usual repertoire of side dishes.

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Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts
Adapted from Bon Apetit’s Fast, Easy, Fresh Cookbook

  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts (about 3 1/2 ounces)
  • 2/3 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 3 cups (16 ounces) Israeli toasted couscous
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 2 fresh or dried bay leaves
  • 3 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh Italian parsley

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add pine nuts and stir until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in same pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add couscous, cinnamon stick, and 2 bay leaves and stir until couscous browns slightly, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add broth, wine,  and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until couscous is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in parsley and pine nuts. Season with black pepper. Transfer to serving dish.

Note: As I was making this recipe, I noticed a similarity in ingredients to how we make our risotto, and decided to sub the white wine for a portion of the broth. It turned out really well.

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