Saturday, May 5, 2012

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts and Parsley

I had never heard of Israeli couscous until I moved to NYC.  I feel like I say that a lot.  Don't get me wrong, I have always been an adventurous eater and my parents exposed me to all kinds of foods growing up, but somehow we skipped right over Middle Eastern (with the exception of gyro, kebobs, shirazi salad, souvlaki and baklava) and African cuisines.  So I really missed out on Israeli couscous entirely until New York.  I think I had regular couscous for the first time in a tagine in France at an Algerian/Moroccan restaurant (at least I assumed it was one of those, although it could have been Tunisian or any other Arabic Maghreb country but there are a ton of Algerians and Moroccans in France).  But I had never heard of Israeli couscous until I went on my first shopping trip to Kalustyans.  And then I discovered that I loved it.  Because the grains are so much larger than regular couscous it does take longer to cook, but I think it's worth it.  Texturally Israeli couscous is similar to fregola or pasta.  According to Wikipedia, Israeli couscous is actually pasta so that makes sense.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite Israeli couscous recipes.  I enjoy the flavor of the cinnamon and the buttery crunch of the toasted pine nuts.  I think the couscous works wonderfully with merguez sausage or grilled chicken.  All in all, it's a fun side dish to have in your repertoire.

Recipe after the jump!

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts and Parsley
Bon Appetit
December 2004

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 3/4 cups canned low-salt chicken broth (or vegetable stock)
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 (you can totally use evoo and cut down on the amount of butter here because I think 4 tbsp is verging on excessive). 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 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.

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