I realize I have been MIA since Purim, but the last month was a long series of crappy happenstance that ate up most of my free time. Oddly, one of the last of the series, the evening before Pesach began, was my inspiration for today’s post. I was driving in the Mission, headed over for a Troika dinner meeting when, in my haste to find a parking space, I crashed my car into an Indian food delivery truck. Anyone who knows me, knows how deeply attached to my car I am, so after assurances that no one was hurt, the sadness of my broken car set in. Despite this, following the insurance fun and the bungee cording of my car’s bumper into a drivable arrangement, we managed to resume the evening plans. My fellow Troika members, Sarah and Megan, consoled my wounded ego with assurances that I was a decent driver and fed me chametz in the form of Israeli couscous. It was amazingly delicious, both warm the night before and again cold for lunch the next day.
With Passover behind us and with Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, coming up next Tues, a little Israeli chametz, seemed like a good way to come back. Israeli couscous, or ptitim, was invented by the Osem food company to serve as a substitute for rice during the years following the founding of Israel, when rice was in short supply. It is wheat based and has grown significantly in popularity in the US in recent years, and can now be found in most US grocery stores.
Its amazing adaptability, also gave me the opportunity to play Ready Steady Cook. I had some bell peppers that needed to be used, as well as some cherry tomatoes that I bought believing they were an orange breed, but it turns out they were just really under-ripe and flavorless. The best way to rescue bad tomatoes is to roast them with a little olive oil and salt, so into the oven they went. I figured as long as I was turning on the oven I may as well roast the bell peppers too. Digging through my kitchen I discovered a small bag of pine nuts left from pesto making in September, a shallot in its last moments, and way in the back of my fridge, my long-neglected jar of preserved meyer lemons, that I put up last year. I threw these things together with a block of feta and I had dinner.
Much like American Independence day Yom Ha’atzmaut is celebrated with lots of picnicking and grilling so Israeli couscous can make an excellent picnic side or even a veggie main. With Memorial Day and the start of barbeque season beginging here as well, keeping a box of Israeli couscous on hand can ensure you are well prepared for a quick side to accompany your summer bbqs.
There are many easy alterations you can make to this recipe to fit the kashrut of your meal. If you use veggie stock it can be vegetarian and if you omit the feta it is easily parvre . Note that if you use the preserved lemons you will probably not need any additional salt, but if you omit them, be sure and add some otherwise you will have a very bland dish.
Israeli Couscous with Roasted Pepper and Tomatoes
- 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
- 1/4 C pine nuts
- 1 shallot chopped
- 2 bell peppers (red,yellow or orange)
- 2 C cherry tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 wedge preserved lemon, diced
- 1 1/2 C dry Israeli couscous
- 1 3/4 C chicken or vegetable stock
- black pepper to taste
- crumbled feta
Roasting the tomatoes<
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Cut the tomatoes in half and spread over a baking sheet
- Place garlic cloves amongst the tomatoes
- drizzle with olive oil
- bake about 2-35 minutes until tomatoes are shriveled and beginning to caramelize.
- Allow to cool.
Roasting the bell peppers
- Move the oven rack to the very top placement as close to the broiler as possible
- Turn on broiler to high and preheat for about 5 minutes
- Remove seeds, stems and slice the bell peppers into wide strips
- Place skin side up on a baking sheet
- Place under broiler for about 5 minutes
- Rotate the pan and broil for anther 5 minutes or until the pepper skins are blackened and bubbled
- Remove from oven, place peppers into a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow peppers to steam for 15 minutes
- Remove the skins (they should peel off easily if you start from a bubble)
- Slice peppers into small bit size strips and then toss with about 1 Tbs of olive oil.
For the couscous
- In a large saucepan heat 2 Tbs olive oil over medium heat
- Add dry couscous, shallot and pine nuts and toast, stirring occasionally until the couscous is brown
- Add stock and bring to a simmer
- Cover and cook about 10-12 minutes until the liquid is absorbed
- Remove from heat, stir in peppers, tomatoes, lemon and season with black pepper. (most preserved lemons are pretty salty so you will most likley not need to add any additional salt)
- Top with crumbled feta and serve.