Food & Design: Trends of Summer, Israeli Couscous
One of my favorite new food trends that have been hitting the commercial grocers is Israel couscous. However, it may be a bit late for me to say that this is a new truly trend in American culture because chefs have been experimenting with this type of pasta since the early 1950s. Over the past few years there has been a sudden boom to explore this culinary favorite which is why I put it at the top of my culinary trends for the summer.
ISRAELI COUSCOUS: A HISTORY LESSON
Unlike couscous, its culinary cousin, which has records in cookbooks before the 13th century, Israel Couscous is a recent culinary creation. Ptitim is the true name for this pasta. Americans have termed Ptitim “Israeli couscous” but in Israeli it is lovingly nicknamed “Ben-Gurion’s Rice”. Ptitim was originally invented during the austerity period in Israel. At the time Ben Gurion, Israel’s then prime minster, had to ration food to help with economic times and thus had to find a substitute for an Israeli staple, rice. Gurion asked Eugen Propper, founder of Osem food company to create a wheat-based product. Osem food company therefore developed a pasta like substitute made of hard wheat flour and roasted it in the oven. Becoming an immediate success, ptitim was quickly shaped into small, dense balls which is why Osem deemed it “couscous”.
In Pittsburgh, I have gone to several restaurants who have been using Israeli couscous. Over the past six months I have seen chefs as well as some of my friends put ptitim in everything from salads, to soups and as a filler for meat dishes. I especially loved the thought of a friend of mine using it in vegetarian burgers to bind the black beans together. When speaking with a friend of mine on the subject, he mentioned that Israeli couscous is such a great ingredient to play with in cooking. He reasoned that the ingredient is still considered “gourmet” and thus has the ability to still people looking for “exotic” items on the menu.
TIPS TO PREPARE ISRAELI COUSCOUS
Think of cooking this pasta in a similar way to couscous or rice and you will have no problems. To give a fuller taste to this pasta, add one diced onion to 1/4 cup of oil in a large sauce pan. Sauté until onion is transparent. Then add about 3 tablespoon of olive oil to pot with 3 cups of Israeli couscous and saute until couscous browns slightly making sure to stir often (about 5 minutes). Add either 3 3/4 cups of chicken broth, vegetable brother or water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until couscous is tender and liquid is completely absorbed. this will take about 10 minutes.
Alexandra Gergar graduates from the University of Pittsburgh with a BS in marketing and finance. Cooking since she was a child, she now has a food blog called Lemons in Water and a local caterer in Pittsburgh, Pa.
Follow me on Twitter: AlexGergar