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!)