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Israeli couscous puts new spin on pantry staple
Desperation Dinners
By Beverly Mills with Alicia Ross | Columnists
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Published: 8/18/2010 12:00 AM

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Have you discovered Israeli couscous yet? The grains are larger than its North African cousin, so you can serve a pantry staple without feeling as if it's the same old thing.

The grains of Israeli couscous are reminiscent of barley yet have a totally different mouth feel. It's sometimes called "pearl" couscous or maftoul, and we've been able to find Israeli couscous easily in most large supermarkets. (It will definitely be available at Whole Foods or other specialty markets.)

These couscous grains are made from semolina wheat and are toasted, which gives a nice nutty hint that's very different from rice or pasta. The toasting process seals in the starch and lets the grains absorb liquid without falling apart. That makes it a perfect partner for today's Curried Indonesian Vegetables. (Of course, you could use plain couscous or even rice.)

This recipe does double duty. It can be a hearty entree for vegetarians, while at the same time it's a wonderfully different side dish, too. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients. Most are available precut or chopped. The cooking is a simple matter of throwing all of the ingredients together and simmering for a few minutes.

Do you have a new ingredient you would like to suggest we try? E-mail us at or visit our website.

Suggested menu: Curried Indonesian Vegetables over Israeli Couscous with mixed tropical fruit and breadsticks.

• Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" Write them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016, or More at Or visit the Desperation Dinners website,