Friday, June 24, 2011

Israeli Couscous (Ptitim) with Peas and Lemon

In Israel, ptitim (known around the world as Israeli couscous or pearl couscous) are the most basic food you could possibly find. They are the thing you serve with ketchup to your very picky toddler who refuses any other sustenance. So the fact that in recent years they have showed up on the menus of gourmet restaurants around the world is a consistent source of hilarity for Israelis.

The "traditional" Israeli way to serve these is with nothing other than a bit of fried onion - and I will speak no ill of that, because they are absolutely awesome that way.
However, sometimes you do want to try something a little different, so here it is. 

If you can't get your hands on Israeli couscous, you can make this with Italian orzo, which is basically the same thing. Also, in Israel one can get gluten free ptitim (which are, in fact, what I used in the picture you see), but sadly they have not yet made it to the US. If you want to make this gluten free, I suggest using similar flavors but adding cooked white or brown rice.

Israeli Couscous with Peas and Lemon

Ingredients (for 3-4 portions): 

- 250 grams uncooked Israeli couscous (ptitim)
- 2 handfuls of frozen peas
-  finely chopped herbs (I used garlic chives, but dill or mint would work well)
-  1-2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lemon
- salt and pepper, to taste

1. Cook the peas: either heat them in the microwave with a little bit of water for about 2 minutes and strain, or cook them in a pot of boiling water until tender and drain. Set aside.

2. Make the couscous: do not make it in the regular (cooking until the water is absorbed). Instead, cook it like you would pasta: boil water in a pot, add the couscous, cook until al-dente and drain. 

3. In a large skillet or in the same pot you used for the couscous, heat the olive oil. Add the herbs and cook for about 1 minute. Add the couscous and the peas and stir. Squeeze the juice from half a lemon on the couscous and stir. Taste to see if you are happy with the tartness. If not, add more lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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