Recipe For Health
by Corporate Chef Kurt Kwaitkowski
Featured Food: Israeli Couscous Yield: Serves 8Learn more about Israeli Couscous


  • 4 T. olive oil, divided
  • ½ c. medium-diced red onion
  • 2 c. Israeli couscous
  • 2 ½ c. water
  • 2 t. vegetable base
  • 1-9 oz. package fresh baby spinach
  • 3 T. minced garlic
  • 1-12 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 2 T. diced canned roasted red peppers
  • 1 ½ T. chopped fresh oregano
  • Zest of ½ a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the couscous to the pan and sauté for an additional 3 minutes or until lightly toasted. Stir in water and vegetable base. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 8 to10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a sauté pan. Add spinach and garlic; sweat (cook in its own juices) until the spinach starts to wilt then add the artichokes and red pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from heat. 

Lightly fluff the couscous with a fork. Add vegetable mixture, oregano and lemon zest to the couscous pan. Season with salt and pepper. Toss well and adjust seasoning to taste. 

Learn More About Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscous (kǖskǖs) [ptitim (puh-TEE-tim) in Hebrew] is a tiny little pasta invented in 1953 during the austerity period in Israel to fill in for the short supply of rice. Since its creation was a special request of the state’s first prime minister, ptitim was dubbed “Ben-Gurion’s rice.” The rice-shaped noodle was an instant success. It wasn’t long before the manufacturer added globe-shaped pasta to their repertoire, naming it “couscous.”

“Couscous” was a bit of a misnomer for this new product. Although Israeli couscous and traditional North African couscous are both miniature wheat pastas, the similarities end there. The original couscous is made by rubbing durum semolina (high-protein wheat flour) and water into small course granules about the size of bread crumbs. The granules are so small and tender, they can be cooked in steam, a process that takes about 50 minutes. In our modern day supermarket, pre-steamed, dried couscous is found as a boxed mix that requires only a few minutes of steeping in hot water or broth to be ready to serve.  

Israeli couscous, also known as “large” or “pearl,” is extruded pasta made from bulgur (course chunks of wheat) then baked to give it a unique, nutty flavor. Each pearl is a few millimeters in size. It is not precooked, but because of its small size, it takes just a few minutes to be ready to eat. 

Here are three ways to prepare it: 

  • Perfect for pasta salad: Add 2 cups of Israeli couscous to 2 quarts of lightly salted water; cook just until soft, about 8 minutes, then drain and chill. 
  • Pilaf-style: Toast 2 cups Israeli couscous in a small amount of oil until golden brown, then add 2 ½ cups water and ½ teaspoon salt; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. 
  • Risotto-style: see our featured recipe. 
Peggy Crum MA, RD

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