I honestly have no idea when I first had couscous, but I love the stuff. I actually think my boys were eating couscous before they had rice. Pearl (or Israeli) couscous is similar to the regular couscous in that is it also a whole-grain food made from semolina or wheat flour. Known as “ptitim” is Israel, pearl couscous is a great, healthful food option that is high in fiber and has a naturally low glycemic index. Popular with vegetarians and vegans, this grain is a true favorite of mine.
If you have never had it, grains of pearl couscous are slightly larger and more chewy than regular couscous. It is similar to barley. Because pearl couscous is toasted, it has a slightly savory, almost nutty flavor. As with regular couscous and other types of whole grains, pearl couscous on its own is rather bland. I think this is a plus: you can do almost anything with it.
In this hearty recipe I add my favorite, leeks, for a lovely, yet subtle onion flavor. Slightly tart dried cherries complement the earthy leeks nicely. The walnuts add fiber, protein, crunch and more nutty flavor. There is very little to this simple vegetarian and vegan-friendly side dish, and that’s why I love it. Not much prep work, and very little cooking required; and you’re left with a fantastic, flavorful, healthful whole grain side dish that works well with just about anything or even on its own. If you liked my California quinoa vegetable rice, I’m willing to bet you will enjoy this recipe just as much.
Pearl Couscous With Leeks And Dried Cherries
- 1 1/2 cup pearl couscous
- 2 cups vegetable stock (or water)
- 4 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 cup leeks, white and green parts only, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/3 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chives, minced
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- Step 1 Place the vegetable stock (or water) in a medium saucepan and heat over high heat. When boiling, add the couscous and reduce to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, until al dente. Drain in a colander and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place in a medium size mixing bowl and set aside.
- Step 2 Place a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and when hot, but not smoking, add the leeks and cook until tender and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds. Add the leek-garlic mixture to the cooked couscous.
- Step 3 Add the cherries, walnuts, parsley, chives, salt, pepper and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Use a rubber spatula to mix well. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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