In the summer the tendency is to focus on produce and other fresh foods that are so plentiful. But, in doing so, we often neglect our pantry ingredients - the backbone for many meals. A box of Israeli couscous sitting on the shelf inspired us to make an old standby. Unlike North African couscous that is tiny and yellow, Israeli couscous (sometimes called pearl couscous or maftoul) resembles barley or very small peas. Made of semolina pasta (not a grain), it is toasted in an open flame oven, rather than dried like most pasta. Toasting gives it a nutty flavor and a sturdy composition. It is incredibly versatile and delicious. Try finding it at small specialty stores, Whole Foods or Trader Joes. We have made this recipe again and again. Feel free to play with proportions. The slow roasted tomatoes are delicious on their own as a side or tossed with salad. —Loulies
pints red grape or cherry tomatoes
extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for roasting
Preheat oven to 325°F. Cut tomatoes in half, coat with olive oil and arrange, cut sides up on a baking sheet. Add one garlic clove and roast until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around edges, about 35-45 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet before you try to remove them.
Puree in a blender, 1 small clove of garlic, 1/4 c. olive oil, 1/4 c. water, 2 tsp. lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a few of the roasted tomatoes until smooth. Set aside.
Heat 2 Tbls olive oil to large heavy sauce pan and add couscous. Stir until couscous browns slightly. Add chicken or vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered until just tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 15 minutes.
Place couscous in a bowl and stir in pureed dressing, remaining roasted tomatoes, olives, parsley, mint. Taste. Add salt and pepper if needed.