the taste space

Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables

Posted in Salads by janet @ the taste space on October 20, 2010

Has anyone else ever had arguments about whether couscous is a pasta or a grain? It is probably just me…

I am in the couscous is a pasta camp, and have tried to sway others. Sometimes we just agree to disagree and I don’t really feel like arguing about something a bit trivial. We can both agree that couscous is delicious, though.

Couscous is made from coarse durum wheat semolina, which comes from the endosperm of the durum wheat kernel. The traditional recipe uses durum wheat and semolina with a bit of salt. Water is added by the handful to moisten the mixture. The couscous pellets are sieved multiple times.

It sounds like pasta to me, but created with a healthier whole-grain flour. Compared to traditional pasta, it has a 25% reduced glycemic  load per gram and contains higher amounts of protein and vitamins like riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, and thiamin.

Couscous is prominent in North African cuisine, including Morocco, but also Algeria, Libya and Tunisia. Each country flavours it differently – Moroccans flavour it with saffron and use it as a side to their tagines, Algerian made add tomatoes and Tunisians made add tomatoes. Earlier this year, I made a side of cinnamon-scented couscous with my Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds and really appreciated how it became fluffy with the additional steam in the oven. Couscous is easily found commercially-made, and available in different sizes: fine, medium and coarse.

This time, I wanted to try something different with Israeli (pearl, or coarse) couscous. Adapted from Raising the Salad Bar by Catherine Walthers, I liked how the roasted vegetables paired with the plump couscous, and the lemon added a lightness and brightness to the dish.

This is my submission to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring noodles and to Presto Past Nights, hosted by Claire at Chez Cayenne, and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Vegetables

1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow zucchini, diced
2 yellow/red peppers, cored and diced
1 medium eggplant, chopped
1/2 red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, halved lengthwise (do not peel)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 pound pearl (Israeli) couscous
2 tbsp parsley, minced (optional)

Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Divide the zucchini, peppers, eggplant, onion and garlic cloves between 2 baking sheets (don’t crowd the vegetables or they will steam instead of roast) and drizzle 2 tbsp of the oil. Mix well. Season with salt and bake until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, about 25-30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the large couscous in a large pot of salted boiling water, according to the package directions. Drain well and add 1 tbsp of the oil. Shake strainer to incorporate oil and let couscous cool.

3. Remove the roasted garlic cloves from the baking sheet and remove their skins. In a small bowl, mash the garlic with a fork. Add the dressing ingredients: lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 tbsp oil and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer pasta to a large serving bowl and mix with the dressing. Stir in the vegetables and parsley, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Serves 4-6 as a main course.

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19 Responses

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  1. Rob said, on October 20, 2010 at 7:35 AM

    Cous cous is also really convenient to take when camping. It’s easy to prepare and filling. I used it when I was doing my overnight hiking treks in New Zealand.

    • Saveur said, on October 20, 2010 at 8:13 AM

      That is a great idea for the fine couscous, Rob! Just add boiling water to steam and you’ve got a tasty side or salad! Yum!

  2. Matt said, on October 20, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    I’ve totally had the couscous grain/pasta argument before! It’s totally a pasta! Look at any box of spaghetti noodles and the main ingredient is durum wheat semolina.

    Anyway great recipe, I love the colours!

  3. Tammy McLeod said, on October 20, 2010 at 10:35 AM

    Couscous is a pasta and yours looks great!

  4. Claire said, on October 20, 2010 at 11:26 AM

    When we were kids, my sister thought rice was pasta. And I remember, also from my childhood, a BBC program on April Fool’s Day about spaghetti farmers. No wonder people are confused!

    This looks delicious. Thanks for sending it to Presto Pasta Nights!

  5. Ruth said, on October 20, 2010 at 12:32 PM

    I’m of the “couscous is definitely pasta” camp. And this one looks amazing. Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  6. Maria @ Scandi Foodie said, on October 21, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    I LOVE the look of this dish! I haven’t cooked “normal” couscous for ages cos I don’t find it particularly “mind blowing”. Israeli couscous, on the other hand, looks much better and because it’s a bigger grain it even feels healthier! :-D

  7. Joanne said, on October 21, 2010 at 8:43 PM

    Couscous is definitely for sure a pasta. No questions about it. And I’m Italian. I should know :P

    I love all of the veggies this is infused with! All of the colors make it look like a fiesta in the making.

  8. Nadia said, on October 22, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Beautiful recipe. I eat couscous weekly! I will definitely try this version out. :)

  9. Jeanette said, on October 22, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    This looks really delicious, I love the use of Israeli couscous for texture and the beautiful assortment of vegetables!

  10. Caffettiera said, on October 22, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    I’ll say without thinking that couscous is a grain, though I know I am technically wrong. And in Italy we make a bigger couscous called fregola which I always classified as pasta.
    Funny! Beautiful dish, so colorful: I’m happy you decided is a pasta, otherwise I would not have seen this through ‘presto pasta nights’.

  11. Claudia said, on October 23, 2010 at 5:41 PM

    Your photo makes me want to dig in and have PASTA

  12. DebinHawaii said, on October 24, 2010 at 8:24 PM

    Israeli couscous is a favorite ingredient of mine and this salad looks delicious. Thanks for sending it in to Souper Sundays. BTW–I am in the couscous as pasta camp too. ;-)

  13. Erin @ EKat's Kitchen said, on October 24, 2010 at 11:17 PM

    Visiting from Kahakai Kitchen, I love couscous, and like you, I consider couscous a pasta! I’ve never cooked with Israeli couscous, but I do love eating it! This salad looks super delicious.

  14. Ashley said, on November 4, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    Couscous is a pasta for sure! This is another salad I need to make. I wish they had whole wheat Israeli couscous!

    • Saveur said, on November 4, 2010 at 6:10 PM

      Ashley, I have totally seen whole wheat (wholemeal) Israeli couscous. Maybe you need to find a store that caters to a larger Jewish community?

  15. julie @ rosy+tart said, on November 8, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    Oh my goodness, this looks (and sounds!) incredible!

  16. H said, on December 16, 2010 at 12:59 PM

    sweetheart, as an Israeli I can tell you that what you cooked in this recipe isnt “Israeli Couscous”. in Israel it’s called “pasta flakes”.
    Real couscous is shredded dried wheat.
    Looks delicious though :-)

    • Saveur said, on December 16, 2010 at 1:48 PM

      Interesting! Thanks for letting me know. I love how different places have different names for the same thing. :)


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