Thursday, November 5, 2009

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Tomatoes and Olives

Awhile back, I came across a recipe for Israeli couscous. Israeli (or pearl) couscous is made from semolina flour and looks like small round balls of pasta. It has a chewy texture and is seriously fun to eat. If you can’t find it at your regular grocery store, look for it at Trader Joe’s (where I got mine) or natural foods stores like Whole Foods. (Orzo would probably be a good substitute if necessary.)

This particular recipe is admittedly a bit time and labor intensive. Don’t be scared off by the number of steps though. It’s very easy to make. You just need to give yourself a little time – it is worth it. The recipe pairs Israeli couscous with sweet oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic, salty olives, and fresh herbs and lemon juice. It’s a pretty versatile dish. You can serve it warm as a side dish or room temperature as a sort of salad. (It even tastes good cold out of the fridge!)

(A quick note about the cooking time: the recipe calls for slowly roasting the tomatoes and garlic at a fairly low heat. I was in a hurry so I increased the temperature to about 400 degrees for around a half an hour. It worked great, so you can definitely do it either way.)

Israeli Couscous with Roasted Tomatoes and Olives
Adapted from Gourmet

For Roasted Tomatoes and Dressing:
2 pints red grape or cherry tomatoes (1 1/2 lbs)
3 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For Couscous:
3 1/2 cups chicken broth (use amount required for the brand of couscous you have)
2 2/3 cups Israeli couscous
1/2 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (I skipped the mint and thyme because I didn’t have any)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

For Tomatoes and Dressing:
Halve tomatoes through stem ends and arrange, cut sides up, in 1 layer on a large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pan. Add garlic to pan and roast in middle of oven until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around edges, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on a rack 30 minutes.

Peel garlic and puree with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup roasted tomatoes in a blender until dressing is very smooth.

For Couscous:
Prepare couscous according to package directions, using chicken broth for cooking liquid.

When cooked, spread couscous in 1 layer on a baking sheet and cool 15 minutes.

Transfer couscous to a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients, dressing, roasted tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.

To do ahead:
Roasted tomatoes, dressing, and couscous can be made 1 day ahead and kept separately, covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Serves 6 to 8.

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