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Israeli Couscous with Saffron, Toasted Pine Nuts & Currants

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Serves four to six as a side dish.

  • To learn more, read:
    Pasta on the Side
  • by Tasha DeSerio from Fine Cooking
    Issue 90

You can easily make this dish an hour or two in advance, let it sit at room temperature, and gently reheat it before serving (you may need to carefully break apart any clumps with a wooden spoon). But hold off on adding the pine nuts until the last minute, so they don’t lose their texture.

  • 4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (1-1/4 cups)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts kept separate)
  • 30 saffron threads (about 1/8 tsp.), lightly toasted and crumbled
  • Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Generous pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1-3/4 cups Israeli couscous
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/3 cup currants, soaked in warm water until tender and then drained
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 10-inch straightsided sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, scallion whites, saffron, red pepper flakes, and a generous pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is tender and golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbs. oil, the garlic, and cinnamon and continue to cook for 1 minute more. Add the couscous and 1-1/2 tsp. salt and stir constantly until the couscous is lightly toasted (the color will turn a light brown), 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add the water to the pan with the couscous, stir to combine, cover, and cook at a simmer over medium-low to low heat until the couscous is tender and has absorbed all of the liquid, about 10 minutes.

Add the pine nuts, currants, and parsley and toss to combine. Season to taste with more salt if necessary. Transfer to a platter or distribute among individual plates, sprinkle the scallion greens on top, and serve.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on six servings; Calories (kcal): 360; Fat (g): 15; Fat Calories (kcal): 130; Saturated Fat (g): 1.5; Protein (g): 8; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): 49; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 3.5; Sodium (mg): 290; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 4;

Photo: Scott Phillips

If you want a different yet delicious side dish, try this. I found the Israeli couscous at Whole Foods, and I bet it would still be wonderful without the expensive saffron. What I liked in particular was the texture of the couscous - it wasn't at all like regular couscous; it was softer and had more inherent flavor. As the recipe suggested, I let it sit for a couple of hours before I served it and it was great. Easily serves 6 as a side dish.

This is simply delicious.

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