Pearl Couscous w/ Chicken Thighs

Often, when we think of chicken meals, rice comes to mind as an accompaniment. Couscous can be used as a fluffy grain alternative to rice and, because the flavors of each are subtle, swapping them won’t throw your entire recipe off course. Both rice and couscous take on the flavors of the seasonings you add, and neither needs much to shine.

While rice is a grain and couscous are a type of pasta, you can buy whole-grain versions of both. Couscous’s flexibility has made it a favorite ingredient in kitchens worldwide. This tiny pasta can be used as a side dish, as a part of an entrée, or added to soups and salads to boost texture. Its mild flavor makes it ideal for combining with seasonings ranging from sweet to spicy, and it can be used to recreate dishes from any cuisine.

Couscous is a pale, delicate grain that North Africans have served for centuries with a meat or vegetable stew on top.

Although it is made from wheat, couscous is the North African equivalent of rice, and it could be called a second cousin of German spaetzle, although it does not contain egg and the granules are much smaller.

Steamed in a manner similar to rice, couscous takes about 10 minutes to prepare. Delicious when served hot, it is equally good at room temperature.

Today, I’m preparing a sheet pan meal with roast veggies and chicken thighs and serving them with a couscous accompaniment. Should be good!

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Pearl Couscous w/ Chicken Thighs
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Instructions
Vegetables
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. In a plastic bag place Italian dressing. Add carrots, onions, zucchini, mushrooms & garlic. Shake well to marinate (do them separately if you wish). Place on a foil lined baking sheet & roast until tender. Marinate cherry tomatoes in a bit of dressing & add to the pan for the last 10 minutes of baking.
Chicken Thighs
  1. In a small dish combine all chicken seasonings. In a plastic bag, place chicken & 2 Tbsp olive oil. Shake well to cover thighs with oil then add spice mixture & shake well again.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil. Add chicken thighs & roast in oven at the same time as veggies are cooking.
Couscous
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high until just shimmering. Add the pearl couscous & toss around to toast until golden brown.
  2. Boil water & add it to the toasted pearl couscous. Season with salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low. Cover & cook for about 14 minutes or until couscous is tender. Remove from heat.
Serving
  1. On a serving plate, place the couscous & vegetables. Top with chicken thighs & drizzle juice from roast chicken over all. Serve.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin w/ Cranberry Lemon Couscous

Couscous can be used as a side dish, as part of a salad, added to a soup, or as a component of an entrée when combined with other hearty ingredients. Because of its ‘blank slate’ flavor profile, it is the ideal base for a wide range of seasonings, from sweet to spicy, as well as ingredients, pairing well with anything from cranberries to lemon.

Israeli or pearl couscous, is larger than traditional couscous and shaped like little pearls of pasta. As the name suggests, its origins are from Israel. When the country’s first prime minister requested a wheat-based substitute to rice, this Israeli couscous was created. It’s a very versatile ingredient that can be either boiled like pasta or toasted in a skillet pan, and it works well in both savory and sweet applications. Israeli couscous is different from the North African version, which has a more fine-grained, fluffy texture.

Over the years, Brion & I have really grown to like Israel couscous. I have tried it in numerous ways both sweet & savory. Today I’m pairing it with some roasted tenderloin which should be real good.

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Roasted Pork Tenderloin w/ Cranberry Lemon Couscous
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. Brush tenderloin with olive oil & seasoning. Place tenderloin in a 9 x 13 pan lined with foil. Roast for about 35 - 40 minutes or until just a FAINT pink color in center remains.
  3. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add couscous & simmer on low for 8 minutes. (Your couscous should be firm, not mushy). Remove pan from heat & add remaining ingredients, mixing well.
  4. Place couscous in a serving dish, cover to keep warm. Allow tenderloin to rest 10 minutes then slice & place on serving dish.

Pearl Couscous Pudding w/ Poached Fruit

While names may be confusing, if you have never tried ‘pearl couscous’, you should. Because of its size and shape, Israeli couscous is sometimes marketed as pearl couscous. Yet in Israel, it goes by neither of these names … its called ‘ptitim’ which roughly translates to ‘little crumbles’. To make it even a bit more confusing … although it is called couscous, technically its not but more like a pasta.

Unlike the finely grained North African couscous made of semolina, Israeli couscous has larger granules, resembling tiny pearls. They are made from a paste of moistened, finely ground, hard wheat flour which is forced through a machine to make round pellets and then toasted dry in ovens. The toasting process seals in the starch to prevent the ‘pearls‘ from falling apart when later cooked in liquid. It also gives the pasta a bit of a nutty taste.

Whatever name you prefer, it is a tasty alternative to rice or pasta. Not only will it serve as a base for vegetable and herb packed salads, it can be stirred with stock to make creamy risottos or use it as a replacement for tapioca or rice in dessert puddings. Its even good just as a side dish tossed with oil or butter, lemon and fresh herbs.

I was able to buy just a small amount at the bulk store so I could make this pudding. The poached fruit makes such a nice topping for it as well.

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Pearl Couscous Pudding w/ Poached Fruit
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Ingredients
Pudding
Poached Strawberries & Rhubarb
Servings
Ingredients
Pudding
Poached Strawberries & Rhubarb
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Instructions
Pudding
  1. In a saucepan, combine coconut oil with cardamom spice over medium-low heat. Add couscous & toast, stirring occasionally, just until the couscous has turned a light golden brown.
  2. Add coconut milk, making sure to get all the fat from the can, along with the sugar & salt. The pan should be hot enough that the coconut milk will bubble up & fizz a little then add vanilla.
  3. Bring mixture to a simmer then turn the heat down to low & cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. After 5 minutes turn off the heat, cover & allow to sit for 5 minutes then remove the lid & stir. Pudding thickens as it cools.
Poached Fruit
  1. In a large saucepan, place water & sugar over high heat & stir until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low & add strawberries & rhubarb. Simmer for 10 minutes or until fruits are softened but still retain their shape. Cool.
Assembly
  1. Serve pudding at room temperature otherwise it becomes a solid mass when cold. If it's too thick you can stir in a bit more coconut milk to help thin it out, adding a tablespoon or so at a time until you have the desired consistency. Divide pudding between serving dishes & top with poached fruit to serve.