Israeli Couscous is an invention of the North American culinary mind, just like French and Italian dressing. In Israel, the dish is known as ‘petitim’, which means little crumbles in Hebrew. It was created by the Osem food company in the early 1950’s at the request of Ben Gurion, the prime minister of Israel at the time. Israel was in its early beginnings as a new state and resources were very scarce. At that time the government imposed a period of rationing known as ‘tzena‘. Osem was asked to develop a starch that was more affordable than rice which was very expensive at the time. The company’s response to this request was petitim or small rice shaped pieces of pasta that were toasted. Later, Osem expanded it’s product line to include the little round balls of pasta we know as Israeli couscous.
Couscous has a neutral taste, just like pasta, but infused with broths, stocks, meats, vegetables, and spices will become a satisfying meal. If you are a fan of butternut squash, this dish pairs the lovely sweetness of butternut squash and spicy beef with Israeli couscous.
Couscous & Beef Stuffed Butternut Squash
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a sheet pan with foil & butter.
Cut butternut squash in half. Remove seeds & membrane. Rub oil on cut sides & place cut-side down on roasting pan, season with salt & pepper. Bake for 40 minutes or until tender but not soft.
Place couscous in a mixing bowl. Pour boiling water over couscous & set aside until the couscous has absorbed all of the water. Fluff with a fork.
In a saucepan, scramble fry ground beef in olive oil; add onion, celery & garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until celery softens, about 3 minutes. Stir in seasonings & salt; cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat, add to couscous mixture & pepita seeds; stir gently until mixed. Set aside.
Remove squash from the oven. Flip the squash so that the cut side is up. With a teaspoon, create a tunnel in the middle of the straight end of each squash, scooping out the flesh but leaving a border of flesh on each side. Remove the flesh, chop coarsely and gently mix into the couscous mixture. Divide the couscous between the two squash halves, filling the tunnel and the round hole that held the squash seeds.
Return to the oven for about 10 minutes or until heated through. Cut squash into four to six portions and serve.
- Adjust the amount of ground beef used according to the size of squash you have.