As you know, I’m always looking for dishes that are not just healthy and easy to make, but also ones that will be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. This is how I discovered my love for Israeli couscous. I first had it at a restaurant and then spent a year trying to find it when one day I noticed it on-shelf as I was walking down the the “ethnic” food aisle! I guess it was there the entire time and not in the pasta aisle!! For those of you who don’t know what Israeli Couscous is, it’s similar to pasta in texture and looks like little beads or pearls… very fun for kids, that’s for sure! It’s also known as “pearl couscous”, “Jerusalem couscous”, or, as it is known in Israel, “ptitim”. This site has a great history of how it was invented after a request from a king! It tastes NOTHING like regular couscous which is a good thing because Little Monkey is NOT a fan of regular couscous.
Unlike pasta, Israeli Couscous is rarely (if ever!) made at home fresh, it’s always store bought. It’s very easy and quick to prepare which is why it’s a staple in our pantry. Doesn’t hurt that it also has a low glycemic index, making it a healthy and high-fiber food. Similar to pasta, Israeli Couscous is quite bland and takes the flavour of the spices and sauces you add in. My friends have told me that Ptitim is popular among Israeli children and that growing up they’d eat it plain or with a tomato base (similar to pasta).This month, Gay Lea asked us to share one of our favourite multi-cultural dishes and since I already shared my Boti Tikka recipe with you, I thought this would be another one you’d enjoy for those busy nights. It’s also fab as a healthy side dish for BBQs and pot lucks. It’s also very versatile, which means you can pretty much eat the same dish numerous times by simply changing the sauce/dressings and toppings up.
Disclosure : I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Gay Lea and I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog, as always, are TOTALLY ours!
You can enjoy Israeli Couscous hot or cold and while I’ve enjoyed it smothered in Ivanhoe Cheese and tomato sauce, with grilled chicken and even with curry (when I have run out of rice), my favourite is the dinner combo below. Why? Simply because I get to toss in whatever is in my fridge and call it dinner…and everyone guzzles it up. You can play with the veggies and protein as you like and there simply is no bad combination. Baby Boy once tossed raisins into his and I must admit, it was pretty good!
Easy and Filling Israeli Couscous Dinner
- 1 1/2 cups cooked Israeli couscous also called pearl couscous (1 cup dry will yield 1 1/2 cups cooked)
- 600 grams of cooked beef (I like to saute my strips in some teriyaki sauce but you could do the same with chicken or tuna easily)
- 1 thinly sliced zucchini (feel free to use your favourite veggies – tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, carrots….)
- 1 sliced pear
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Handful of raw spinach
- 2 tablespoons of Gay Lea Cottage Cheese
- 1 tablespoon of grated Ivanhoe Maple Cheddar (only if you like a sweet add-in)
- Slice of crisp Turkey Bacon
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
I’d recommend following the instructions on the package of Israeli Couscous you buy but I’ve noticed that most say you need 1 1/4 cups of water or vegetable broth for every cup of dry grain. Here’s a tip though! To ensure the pearls don’t clump up, roast the dry grains in a flat pan until they turn slightly golden brown and then transfer them into the pan with the broth/water. You only need to roast it for about 3 minutes and can drizzle in some Gay Lea Salted Butter for additional flavour. I usually end up simmering the Israeli Couscous on the stove top for about 10-15 minutes, you don’t want it to get too mushy and if you had the right liquid-grain ratio, there should be no excess liquid floating around for you to toss out. Simply fluff itup with a fork (never a spoon!) and you now have the base to play with. If there is excess liquid, use a fine mesh strainer to drain it out. Some say they like to rinse the cooked Israeli Couscous in cold water after it has cooked (to avoid them sticking together) but I find that it takes away the nutty flavour that comes out when you roasted the dry grains.
In a cup stir up the lemon juice with olive oil and garlic. Pour this over the cooked and warm Israeli Couscous before you sprinkle some salt and pepper. I usually do this on the stove top to ensure that everything is warm for a dinner salad. Add in the sliced pear, the raw spinach and zucchini. Warm for 10 minutes on low heat. Be sure to fluff the ingredients in (using a fork) so as to not damage the delicate pearls. Add in the Gay Lea Cottage Cheese at the very end before you plate the mixture. I like the creamy texture it adds into the dish and of course it’s a great source of protein as well. Place the cooked beef on top of the couscous and feel free to place some cooked turkey bacon (if you have them in your fridge that is!).
Once you have the dressing and the couscous you have the flexibility to toss in whatever you want. When I cooked this one up I had a pear that was about to go bad, along with a zucchini and some beef…you can see what all went into our dinner! I mix up the fruit/veggie/meat combinations often so have fun with this one. I actually love warm pear with cheese so I decided to grate some Black River Maple Cheddar and tossed in some leftover turkey bacon from breakfast for a sweet and salty dinner salad that was very satisfying. The hubs on the other hand wanted nothing to do with the maple cheddar! As usual my kids have odd requests and on certain days they want the ingredients all separated and so this is what his dinner looked like compared to ours! I’m grateful that the kids embrace the different food and cultures we bring their way, and so I’m not complaining!
This recipe makes enough for 4 large meals. Since my kids share one portion, it means I have an entire portion for lunch the next day, which is win! Luckily it tastes great cold too so it’s also an easy one to eat at my desk at work. If you haven’t tried Israeli Couscous, check it out – I have a feeling your kids will love it!
Now I have a question – did anyone notice that we served the dinner in three different dishes? I like mine in a bowl, the hubs prefers to eat on a plate and the kids want their little contraption that allows everything to be separated. Does this happen at your place too?