Last Updated on January 30, 2023
Pearl couscous, Israeli couscous, Pitim, Maftoul, these are all names that might be familiar to you and they all refer to the same thing: a staple ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean gastronomy.
With a nutty flavor and the shape of a pearl, couscous can be combined with a wide variety of ingredients to bring about amazing and appetizing dishes. The thing is we might run short of imagination sometimes and an extra boost of it is always right in order. So, if you want to know how to make couscous a staple in your own kitchen, keep reading!
What is couscous?
Pearl couscous looks like a round grain, but it is actually pasta, did you know that? That’s right, made of toasted semolina flour, couscous could be considered a pastina due to its size.
As such, it goes great in many dishes and it is an ingredient you can resort to when you are short of time or you want something cooked fast. It takes only a few minutes to cook and there’s no magic behind it, just some boiling water and a few more things.
Consider this is not a gluten-free food, just in case you are following that type of diet. If you, on the contrary, don’t mind the gluten intake, couscous can be cooked in several manners making it easier to bring diversity and variety to your menu.
- Basic: the most basic way to cook couscous is boiling it in water. For that you will need a cup and a half of water for every cup of couscous. Take into account that couscous grows three times its size after being cooked. You can also add some extra virgin olive oil to the boiling water and, definitely, some salt. Consider using kosher salt as an alternative.
- Infusion: if you want to give couscous an extra flavor, you can take the cooking up a notch and infuse it in herbs or some vegetables. Try adding some bay leaves to the boiling water. Cinnamon sticks are also a good option as well as nutmeg or turmeric. As for vegetables, you can use onions or something more savory, like garlic or shallots. Try sauteing them as you toast the couscous to enhance all the flavors.
- Toasting: this is another popular option. You can start by melting some butter or pouring some extra virgin olive oil in your skillet to toast and brown the couscous. After that, include either some water or broth to finish cooking it.
How to include couscous in your dish
As a small and versatile ingredient that is also quite filling, it can be used in many different dishes. In whatever way you choose to make it, note that you can heighten its flavor by using herbs, lemon juice, spices or even dried fruits. Here are some serving ideas you can use:
- Salads: Mediterranean salad, for example, is a great way to include pearl couscous in your diet.
- Grain bowls: remember couscous is grain-like pasta, so it goes great with other grains. Use it as a base with vegetables and maybe some fish like tuna.
- Soups: You could either use the blender or include it as it is. Try adding it to a lemon soup and you’ll love it.
- Mexican pearl couscous: this recipe is great as it only takes a few ingredients including the couscous, chorizo, corncobs, capsicums and mayonnaise. Basically, you will have to grill the chorizo, the corn and capsicum with a good share of seasoning and then combine it with the previously cooked couscous. Use mayonnaise or any dressing you like.
- Salmon with pearl couscous and lettuce: Add your favorite greens to this list, maybe zucchini and shallots, garlic and snow peas. Cook the lettuce in the oven to make it crispy, cook couscous following the packet instructions and the salmon in a skillet together with the vegetables. Combine on a plate and drizzle some lemon juice.
- Pearl couscous risotto (with chicken): Follow any regular risotto recipe and cook couscous in this way, in chicken or vegetable broth. Note that you will need less water. Seal the chicken and then let it cook in the risotto if you like it tender.