I don’t know what it is about grilling season, but I am constantly looking for great sides that can be served warm or cold next to some nice grilled meat fresh off the BBQ. I am a huge fan of couscous – but then one day I discovered Israeli couscous…I love those little balls of pasta – they are so perfect with fresh vegetables, and make a delicious side dish that you can serve at any temperature. I remember trying to explain Israeli couscous to my daughters one evening – I told them that they were like rice except that they were pasta. Then I had to explain the difference between rice and pasta – and that rice is a grain, and pasta is made from semolina flour, etc…and the conversation got way too complicated pretty quickly.
I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and it reminded me that I had a package of Israeli couscous in the pantry. The vegetables in the recipe though didn’t do it for me – they were all green. I felt that like I needed some additional color in there, so I modified the recipe slightly below. The fresh lemon dressing was excellent – be sure to use fresh lemon juice for this one, it is worth it. I served this with some nice steaks that my husband grilled, and the dinner was a huge hit – we ate every last bit of the couscous. My favorite part of this recipe? You can substitute whatever vegetables you have in your garden, or refrigerator. This will be on our menu a lot this summer.
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
- 1 1/3 cups Israeli couscous (6 to 7 ounces)
- 1 3/4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
- 14 ounces slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
To trim asparagus, hold onto the top of the stalk with one hand and bend the bottom of the stalk with your other hand. The stalk will snap, separating the woody end from the tender top.
Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and lemon peel in small bowl; set dressing aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add couscous, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until most of couscous is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add 13/4 cups broth, increase heat, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 10 minutes, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls if too dry.
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add asparagus, sugar snap peas, green peas, and remaining garlic clove. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetables to large bowl.
Add couscous to bowl with vegetables. Drizzle dressing over. Add chives and cheese; toss. Season with salt and pepper.
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