What is Pearl Couscous? Pearl Couscous is not the traditional couscous associated with North African cuisine. North African Couscous is a Berber preparation that consists of very small (1 mm) granules of semolina wheat which are coated in wheat flour. Pearl Couscous, also known as Israeli Couscous (or ptitim) is made of baked wheat rather than semolina, and is similar to pasta. Its granules are much larger in size and maintain their individual texture and firmness without sticking, which makes it a great candidate for salads and a substitute for orzo and rice. Pearl couscous may be toasted before simmering in liquid, which will impart a lovely golden hue and flavor that will hold up against spices and herbs.
This salad is delicious as is or as an accompaniment to grilled meat, chicken or fish. It’s spicy, crunchy and fresh. Tiny pearl couscous are tumbled with a variety of sweet and hot peppers, and freshened with crisp parsley, mint and cilantro leaves. Call it a salad, side dish or light meal, Pearl Couscous Salad is addictively good. If you prefer a vegetarian option, substitute the chicken stock with water and crumble feta cheese over the salad before serving. Feel free to add other ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, grated carrot or lightly sauteed zucchini or broccoli. There is no single way to prepare this dish allowing you to be creative and resourceful with your refrigerator ingredients.
Pearl Couscous Salad
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups giant pearl couscous (Israeli couscous)
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
2 green onions, ends trimmed, white and green parts finely sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded, diced
1 poblano pepper, seeded, diced
1 serrano pepper, seeded, minced
1 garlic cloved, minced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1/2 cup chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in skillet. Add couscous and cook, stirring, until couscous is golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender but firm, 10 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer couscous to a large bowl, fluffing with a fork. Stir in one tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin and cayenne. Set aside to cool. When cool, add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve at room temperature.
Note: If you are preparing the salad in advance, do not add the parsley, mint or cilantro until serving to prevent wilting.