Even if you don’t like traditional couscous — the texture can be too fine for some people, plus it’s easy to overcook — you should check out Israeli couscous, the pearl-like pasta that has much more heft than the regular stuff.
Instead of using raisins and plain chopped nuts, which are traditional ingredients in many couscous salads, this recipe from vegan chef extraordinaire Tal Ronnen’s new book “Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine” (Artisan Books, $35) calls for champagne grapes and rosemary fried almonds. Go easy on the fried almonds if you’re watching your calorie count, or stick with regular chopped almonds, walnuts or pecans.
Israeli Couscous with Champagne Grapes, Haricots Verts and Marcona Almonds
1 cup Israeli couscous
1 cup filtered water
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. haricots verts (thin French green beans), cut into 1/8-inch pieces
1/2 cup champagne grapes or quartered red seedless grapes
4 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, leaves stripped from the stems and minced (about 2 tablespoons)
4 fresh mint springs, leaves stripped from the stems and minced (about 2 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Rosemary-Fried Almonds (recipe follows) or toasted Marcona almonds, smashed with a mallet or heavy pan
1/4 cup basil leaves, minced
Put a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the couscous and toast, stirring frequently, until it smells nutty and is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Pour in the water, cover and simmer until the couscous is just tender, 10 to 12 minutes; drain if necessary. Set the couscous aside to cool.
Toss the couscous with 1 tablespoon of the oil to prevent the grains from sticking together. (The couscous can be prepared up to a day in advance, covered, and refrigerated.)
When ready to serve, combine the cooled couscous, green beans, grapes, parsley and mint in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle the lemon juice and then the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the couscous and season with salt, black pepper and the red pepper flakes. Toss gently with your hands to coat and distribute the ingredients evenly.
Mound the couscous salad on a platter or individual plates. Sprinkle the almonds over the top and garnish with the basil. Serves 4.
1 cup canola oil
1 large fresh rosemary sprig, leaves stripped from the stem and coarsely chopped
2 cups whole Marcona almonds
1 tsp. kosher salt
Put a cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil, add the rosemary, and stir to infuse the flavor into the oil. Heat the oil to about 300 degrees. (You don’t need a thermometer for this: Drop an almond into the oil. When it sinks a bit, then floats right back to the top and starts sizzling, the oil is hot enough.)
Once the oil is ready to go, add half of the almonds and cook, stirring constantly, until they are fragrant and toasted, 10 to 20 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, remove the almonds from the oil and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle them with the salt while they are hot. Repeat with the remaining almonds.
Store the fried almonds in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Makes 2 cups.
— From “Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine” by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones and Serafina Magnussen (Artisan Books, $35)