Israeli Couscous: Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Daylight savings time and fourth quarter madness at work has put me in a perpetual state of exhaustion. So while I usually enjoy a bit of a challenge in the kitchen, this week I needed the cooking equivalent of a gimme. Just to convey my state of mind, I briefly contemplated purchasing a box of frozen knishes and calling it a blog post. In the end, however, I settled on a recipe for Israeli couscous.

Israeli couscous, which is bigger and rounder than regular couscous, is a quick and easy side dish. This particular recipe included quite an array of ingredients that surprisingly worked when thrown together. My favorite part of this recipe was that it called for both rosemary and thyme, which provided a somewhat decent reason to sing Simon and Garfunkel in the spice aisle. I tweaked the recipe a bit after reading online reviews that the vinaigrette was too strong and salty; I cut down the apple cider vinegar and salt by more than half. I also would recommend reducing the herbs, which ended up overpowering the dish.

So how does the whole experience rank? On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “bad” and 5 being “good”:

Prep time: 5

Prep time was limited to toasting the almonds and chopping up some ingredients.

Overall ease: 5

I was beginning to think cooking Jewish food always requires spending an entire day in the kitchen. This recipe dispelled all such thoughts and provided a simple and quick dish I’m sure to try again. Israeli couscous won me over and may become a pantry staple.

Cook time: 5

Eight minutes of simmering the couscous and the meal was done! Just be vigilant about watching the pot in the final minutes to make sure the couscous pearls don’t dry out.

Cost: 1

These ingredients added up to more than $30, which was a lot to spend on a meatless side dish.

Taste: 4

I was a little apprehensive about how many ingredients this recipe called for, but somehow all the flavors worked. The tangy apples and sweet cranberries were especially tasty. I can’t give this recipe a 5 because the herbs were too strong, especially the rosemary. The next time I make this dish I will definitely cut down on the rosemary, parsley, and thyme.

Ingredients:

Couscous:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (or barley or orzo)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 medium green apple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted, see note below

Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

For the couscous: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to12 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool. Add the parsley, rosemary, thyme, apple, dried cranberries, and almonds.

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, maple syrup, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth. Pour the vinaigrette over the couscous and toss to coat evenly.

Cook’s Note: To toast the almonds, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange the almonds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before using.