Israeli Couscous with Charred Peppers

November 8, 2009


Dinner, Fall, Local Eating, Lunch, Recipes, Seasons, Side Dishes, Summer

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No matter what, I cook on a Sunday. Nothing makes me happier than being by the oven for most of the day, putting up food for the week ahead.  There’s something really nurturing about taking care of myself this way: with a little foresight I can have satisfying, comforting food no matter what disasters might befall me in the upcoming week.

I tend to start roasting late morning when my eyes need a break from the newspaper. I’ll get up from my big chair by the window, pad over to the kitchen, and figure out what to do with what I hauled in from Saturday’s farmers’ market. I’ve found it’s pretty easy to improvise when you keep staples on hand: as long as I have some herbs, aromatics and good oil, I’m guaranteed to turn my loot into something delicious, even if great inspiration fails me.


A few markets ago I came into some cheerful sweet peppers that begged to be fire roasted and featured. I thought of stuffing them at first, to show off their smooth, bright outsides, but at the last minute remembered how much I delight in ‘grilling’ over the open gas flame in my kitchen. I love the way the peppers pop and snap in the heat, and how the house starts to smell sweet and smoky.

On this particular Sunday morning, I rooted around and found a fat bunch of parsley, some pine nuts and a jar of Israeli couscous that seemed like potential companions to my blackening peppers. Israeli couscous—a soft, pearly grain that’s almost like a delicate orzo—could be as easy as setting a pot of water to boil. On Sundays, I take a slightly more involved approach, which creates a rich and savory foundation. I ate this yellow pepper couscous for days, sometimes warm and on its own, and other times thrown onto a salad or mixed with other roasted vegetables I had squirreled away between stabs at the crossword puzzle.


Israeli Couscous with Charred Peppers

For Peppers

Char, grill or broil 2-6 sweet peppers depending on size. When peppers are sufficiently blackened and soft, cover and let stand until cool. Remove skins, veins and seeds and chop, adding 1 tbsp turbinado sugar if peppers are bitter. Finely chop 1 generous bunch of parsley. Toast 1 c pine nuts in a heavy bottomed skillet. Combine vegetables and set aside.

For Couscous

Set 3 c of broth to boil—I use vegetable, but chicken would be delicious. In your heavy bottomed skillet, sautée a large, chopped shallot in olive oil until just soft. Pour 1 c dry Israeli couscous into the skillet, adding 2 bay leaves. Stir occasionally until couscous turns amber, about five minutes. When couscous is properly toasted and broth has boiled, pour grain into broth and lower heat, cooking until couscous is soft and broth has drained down, about ten minutes. When finished, drain if necessary.

Combine parsley, pine nuts and peppers with couscous, (I did this in the skillet as all of my broth had boiled down) season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately, garnishing with some Parmesean cheese and serve immediately.

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