Israeli couscous, often referred to as pearl pasta because of its small round shape and chewy texture, is not couscous at all, but tiny pasta made from hard-wheat flour. Although Israeli couscous, and perhaps the more familiar yellow semolina-based African couscous, are both miniature wheat pastas, the similarities end there. African couscous is made by rubbing durum semolina and water into small course granules about the size of bread crumbs, and because they're so small and tender, they require only a few minutes of steeping in hot water or broth, or if you're in Morocco, steamed in a couscousière.
Whereas Israeli couscous is an extruded pasta made from bulgur, which is toasted rather than dried, and as such gives the pearls a unique, chewy, nutty flavour. And unlike traditional North African couscous, Israeli couscous doesn't clump once it's cooked, which makes it a perfect base for many savoury summer salads, like this delicious recipe with sautéed onions, cremini mushrooms, red bell peppers and a pinch of saffron, for a dash of golden summertime colour.
Israeli Couscous with Mushrooms, Peppers & Saffron
1 1/2 cups of water
1/8 tsp of saffron threads
9 oz Israeli couscous
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup yellow onions, diced
4 oz cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup red bell peppers
salt and pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
Boil water in a medium saucepan. Add saffron and the couscous. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover, stirring occasionally. Cook for about 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the couscous to absorb the water before fluffing.
Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions, peppers and mushrooms and sauté until tender. Fluff couscous and transfer to a larger bowl. Add the sautéed vegetables and the rest of the ingredients to the couscous, and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate several hours before serving.