Israeli Couscous Pilaf: A toasty, fragrant and fresh side dish

(Lynda Balslev)

by Lynda Balslev

This recipe originally appeared on The Nosher.

Israeli couscous, known in Israel as ptitim, which means “flakes” in Hebrew, is a pearl-shaped, pasta-like product with a delicious toasted wheat flavor. It was invented in Israel’s early years as an inexpensive starch that was more affordable than pricey rice. Nowadays it’s a nostalgic comfort food in the Israeli kitchen, but has also grown in popularity abroad and among chefs in the past 30 years. It’s easily found in the U.S., where it’s marketed as Israeli or pearl couscous.

In this recipe, I’ve paired Israeli couscous with warm spices, fresh mint, currants and toasted pine nuts for a textural, flavorsome dish. It’s an easily adaptable side that’s suited to any occasion.

Make sure to check out the surprising history of Israeli couscous.

1 1/4 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
pinch of ground cinnamon
generous pinch saffron threads
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 cup Israeli couscous
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons currants
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

1. Combine the stock, salt, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened without coloring, about 2 minutes. Add the couscous and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute.

3. Carefully add the stock to the pan and stir to combine. Cover the pan and simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid and fluff the couscous with a fork. Lay a clean dish towel over the pan, without touching the couscous, and place the lid over the towel. Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the towel to absorb the steam.

4. Stir in the pine nuts, currants and mint. Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 3-4 as a side.

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