There’s something about Israeli couscous that I’m infatuated with. I don’t know if it’s the toothsome, pasta-like texture, the neutral palette that makes it the perfect canvas for any ingredient, or the versatility. Perhaps it just reminds me of Israel?
Everything behind me is made of hummus. True story.
Whatever the reason I was in the mood for it recently and wanted a salad treatment so I could make it during the day and bring it to an outdoor concert in the evening and found this Cook’s Illustrated recipe from 2015.
As much as I loved the pickled shallots (and they were easy and fast) I found myself eating around them and then plucking them out. I would consider ditching them next time for this reason as well as the fact that I felt like there was a lot going on in this recipe — feta, pistachios, mint, arugula, lemon, peas. Not to mention the CI signature of adding a fussy step to the couscous cooking (in this instance, sauteing. And let me tell you, it’s like sauteing a thousand tiny, greased ball bearings — prepare to sweep them out of every corner of your kitchen floor). So if you’re looking to streamline this recipe you can skip the shallots.
Shallot dilemma aside, this was exactly what I was looking for. It was flavorful and delicious warm and cold. I ate it that night and the next day and although the mint wilted a bit it was still wonderful.
Israeli Couscous with Lemon, Mint, Peas, Feta and Pickled Shallots from Cook's Illustrated
For the shallots:
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
salt and pepper
2 shallots, sliced thin
For the couscous
2 cups Israeli couscous
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2-1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the vinaigrette:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch red pepper flakes
4 oz. (4 cups) baby arugula, roughly chopped
1 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped
3 oz. (3/4 cup) feta cheese, crumbled
For the pickled shallots:
Bring vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Remove pan from heat, add shallots and stir to combine. Cover and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard liquid. While it cools make the couscous.
For the couscous:
Heat couscous and oil in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until about half of grains are golden brown, 5-6 minutes. Add water and salt, stir to combine. Increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until water is absorbed, 9-12 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and let stand, covered, for 3 minutes.
Whisk or shake together the oil, lemon juice, mustard, pepper flakes and a pinch of salt.
Combine cooled couscous, arugula, mint, peas, half the pistachios, half the feta and shallots and toss. Season with salt and pepper to taste and transfer to serving bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining feta and pistachios and serve.