Arabic gastronomy is well-known for the great variety of dishes it brought to the world of cuisine. This type of food is characterized by the presence of cereals such as rice, barley, or wheat accompanied by a great variety of vegetables and legumes, especially cucumber, tomato, onion, and even includes nuts and fruits such as lemon. In addition, aromatic herbs and spices awaken a lot of flavor and aroma sensations that make this type of food so special.
Couscous is a typical staple Arabic food originating from the Maghreb area, i.e. the western part of the Arab world, an area that includes countries such as Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Mauritania in Africa. It has rice as its main ingredient, and there are regional variations of it in each country.
Ptitim: the Israeli version of couscous
In this post, we will explain how to make a delicious dish with Pearl Couscous, also called Israeli couscous or Ptitim. It has wheat pasta as its main ingredient instead of rice and, despite being part of Arab gastronomy, it is consumed in Israel due to geographical factors such as the proximity of Israel to Arab countries and historical factors such as the Arab influence in the region, which has remained for years, since before the creation of the Jewish nation.
Some curiosities about Pearl Couscous
This pasta began to be used in 1951 when the country was going through a food crisis and rice was scarce. At that time, a wheat paste began to be elaborated, which was given a round shape and passed through an oven for toasting. This marked the beginning of ptitim as an alternative to rice or couscous.
Pearl Couscous is also called “Ben Gurion pasta” because this prime minister had the idea to make Couscous from wheat pasta or semolina due to the great number of Jewish that migrated to Israel in the 50’s.
Israeli couscous and true couscous are made with wheat flour or semolina and water, but the original couscous is much smaller and has an irregular shape. The Berbers started using it before the 13th century, and it’s traditionally homemade. Its shape comes from making small dough balls, around 1 to 3 millimeters in diameter. It’s served with spicy meat and vegetables.
The following is an excellent Pearl Couscous recipe that you can try at home, however, you can also find pearl couscous recipes easy on the Internet.
Israeli couscous with shallots
- 1 cup Israeli couscous.
- 1 small shallot (finely diced).
- 1 tbsp of butter.
- 1 1/4 cup chicken stock or water.
- Zest of a lemon (plus more for garnish).
- 1 tbsp of parsley finely chopped.
- 1/4 cup Parmesan (shredded plus more for garnish).
How to prepare
- Add 1 tbsp of butter, the zest of a half lemon, and the shallot to a small pot and heat this mixture for 3 minutes or until the shallot gets sweated.
- Pour 1 cup of Israeli couscous into the small pot and add every other ingredient to it. Cover the couscous with the butter and shallot mixture and heat it for 2 minutes. The couscous will get a little bit toasted.
- Pour 1 1/4 cup of chicken stock to add a savory flavor (water is OK as well). Add salt and pepper for seasoning.
- Fluff the mixture with a fork. It will make sure that couscous grains get light and individual.
- Add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese to the couscous and mix it with a fork.
- Serve the couscous in a bowl and spring more lemon zest, parsley, and more parmesan cheese on top.
What can I serve the Israeli Couscous with?
Pearl Couscous can be served as a main dish or accompanying another. Some of the recommendations for serving Israeli couscous as a side dish include salmon and steamed vegetables, such as mushrooms, spinach, basil, and mint.
Another good accompaniment is shredded fish and you can mix it with the rice. Meats also combine well with the Couscous, for instance, baked breaded chicken, beef ribs, or garlic-seasoned meat bites
Other excellent combinations are Couscous with fruits such as walnuts and goat cheese.
In short, Ptitim, or Pearl Couscous, as you may find it printed on its package at the stores, can be a delicious and easy-to-cook replacement for rice in many dishes where that grain is used. And a good source of nutrients as well.