Israeli Couscous Questions

Hello all.  It’s been a while.  Summer is upon us.  We are finally into the tomatoes, eggplant and squash that a dream about on those dreary winter nights.  Also new in the world of feast! is Israeli Couscous Salad.  We’ve begun making it in the café and selling it with our other café prepared items.  Occasionally we offer it as an additional side out of the café.  I have to say that I’m enamored with these little balls of pasta.

For those of you not familiar with it, Israeli couscous differs from traditional couscous in shape and content.  Unlike traditional couscous which is small granules made from semolina flour, Israeli couscous is shaped into small balls and made from hard wheat flour.  Which begs the question, why is it called couscous and what is the connection to Israel?  These are the kind of questions that keep me up at night.  Luckily, the internet knows all.  Here’s what I found.

Turns out, Israeli couscous was invented in Israel during the austerity period from 1949-1959.  There were many Jewish refugees that immigrated to Israel during this period, and they needed to be fed.  There was a shortage of rice at that time, a staple in their cuisine, so the Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asked the founder of the Osem food company to create a substitute.  He came up with the product we in the states call Israeli couscous, but in Israel they call Ptitim or ‘Ben-Gurion’s Rice’.  It was in instant success, and remains part of the culture, although it is primarily considered food for children.

So, why do we call it couscous?  Apparently, Ptitim comes in a number of different shapes these days.  Osem, the food company, deemed the round shape that we are so familiar with couscous.  I guess it didn’t stick in Israel, but we in the states have adopted the name.

While we in the café have not invented an entirely new product, like the Osem food company, we have made a pretty delicious salad with their product.  We toss the Israeli couscous in a lemon-tahini dressing and add feta, chickpeas, red pepper and preserved lemons.  Yum!  Putting all modesty aside, I have to say it is one of the better Israeli Couscous salads I have tasted.  Come in and give it a try!


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