Recipe Inspiration: Pearl (Israeli) Couscous Salads

We've been semi-obsessed with pearl couscous; it's so attractive in early summer. It feels lighter than pasta, yet more substantial than traditional couscous, and it's the perfect base for one-dish meals that involve fresh summer herbs and vegetables. Here's one quick couscous dish we put together last week, plus ideas for several more.

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Hot or cold, warm or leftover, this deliciously chewy little pasta has been a total favorite. It doesn't get gummy or too soft, and it holds up well in the fridge. We made three (three!) couscous side dishes last week: one, pictured above, with slivered almonds, mint, steamed peas, and goat cheese.

We made another later that week that was similar, but without the peas and with ricotta salata and some extra herbs. Then came yet another, with over a cup of creamy goat cheese smeared into it, and zest from a few lemons. Delicious, and easy! Sara Kate also made a wonderful big dish of this at our editors' retreat; she mixed in roasted beets and sweet potatoes.

The hard part is often just finding these little pearls. We got extra-big ones at a local Mediterranean grocery. You can also find it at Trader Joe's, alone and in their Harvest Grains Blend.

We love mixing cooked couscous with some blend of these things:

• Citrus: Lemon, lime, or orange zest and juice
• Nuts: Walnuts with orange zest, or almonds with lemon
• Herbs: Basil, chives, mint, and fried sage are all good.
• Cheese!
• A little bacon, if you want some meat.
• Good olive oil and a little vinegar for a simple dressing is also very good.

How do you eat pearl couscous? Do you have any favorite improvised combinations of ingredients and flavors?

Related: Recipe: Israeli Couscous with Chard