Ingredient Spotlight: Israeli Couscous

Last week, when we had a hard time finding farro for our Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables, we briefly thought we'd give up the hunt and go with Israeli couscous instead. It has a similar shape and chewiness of a grain like farro, but, like regular couscous, it's a pasta. Read on for why we love it and what we do with it...Faith has written about her love of Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend, which has Israeli couscous in it. And that enticing photo at the top of our most recent Open Thread is her recipe for Israeli Couscous with Chard.

Although it looks like a plump, round speck of barley, Israeli couscous is a toasted pasta, cut down into little beads (it's also called pearl couscous). It's very similar to orzo, although we think it retains a little more chewiness once it's cooked.

Israeli couscous is extremely versatile and difficult to mess up. You can boil it and drain it like pasta or add stock and allow the couscous to absorb it, like rice. It stands up well to chunks of vegetables, holds its shape in soups, and offers a nice cushy bed for a piece of fish or chicken.

Plus, it's a nice, unexpected change from orzo or rice, if you find yourself stuck in a rut. Serve it with a little olive oil, some lemon zest, parsley, and parmesan for a simple side dish. Or add some shredded chicken or tuna. It's wonderful with any assortment of winter vegetables, and it tastes great cold, too.

Some recipes to check out:
Pearl Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes, from Gourmet (via Smitten Kitchen)
Israeli Couscous Risotto with Squash, Radicchio, and Parsley Butter, from Bon Appétit
Grilled Shrimp and Vegetables with Pearl Couscous, from Gourmet
Israeli Couscous with Diced Sweet Potatoe and Sumac, from Food Network

How do you eat Israeli couscous?

Related: From the Files: Warm Grain Salads (Try substituting Israeli couscous in some of these recipes!)

(Image: Amazon)

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