Toasted Israeli Couscous with Broiled Vegetables

I’ll start with a minor confession, which may or may not be relevant by the time this post is over. I spent the vast majority of my youth really hating couscous.  I think it’s because in the sixth grade my science teacher made us each eat a handful of couscous grain by grain in order to demonstrate what it’s like to be a baleen whale trying to sustain itself on plankton. Maybe I was feeling sensitive–I had a solid wiring of braces at the time, and the resemblance I bore to a baleen whale was at its most striking (especially considering all the junk that got caught up in there. Tween years, I don’t miss you).  Beyond that, I wasn’t totally wowed by its grainy texture.  I didn’t start eating couscous of my own volition until I moved to New York after college. I was grocery shopping with a friend, who pointed out that there was a huge sale on couscous and immediately started filling up her basket. What the hell, I figured, and followed suit. It was super cheap and easy to make–which, let’s be honest, are two incredibly persuasive criteria for recent college grads.

I bring up the questionable relevance of this anecdote because this post isn’t really about couscous the way most of us know couscous. If you haven’t tried Israeli couscous, get ready to fall in love. Israeli couscous is totally different from the grainy stuff we ate in our whale simulation–it’s more like a pearl-shaped pasta.  It takes a little more time to prepare than the stuff you find in a box, but the results are far more spectacular–it has a chewy, satisfying bite that seems otherwise elusive in the Moroccan variety with which most people seem to be familiar.

I got this particular recipe for Israeli couscous from my sister, who put together this delicious and satisfying dish for a potluck dinner. It’s great as a side (especially with salmon, my perennial go-to), but it’s also delightful on its own, either hot or cold.

Toasted Israeli Couscous with Broiled Vegetables (Adapted from Gourmet)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 yellow summer squash, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3/4 cup toasted Israeli couscous
  • 1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your broiler.

Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, garlic, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss the sliced zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers in half of the dressing in a large bowl, and then let it sit for five minutes or so to marinate.

Broil the vegetables on a pan about 5-7 inches from the heat source for 15 minutes or so until they are browned, turning the vegetables halfway through.  I had to do this in a couple of batches. Transfer the broiled vegetables to a cutting board. When they’re cool, cut them into 1-inch pieces.

While your vegetables are broiling, saute the red onion in a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat until softened. Add the couscous and saute for another two minutes until the couscous is nice and toasty.

Add your chicken or vegetable broth (or water, if you don’t have either on hand). Cover the saucepan and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until the couscous is tender. Then stir in the broiled vegetables, basil, the rest of the dressing, and additional salt and pepper. Voila!


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One Response to “Toasted Israeli Couscous with Broiled Vegetables”

  1. Mamyte Says:

    Very colorful & festive. Party ready, but easy enough for every day.
    Great photographs!

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