The name for "Israeli Couscous" in Hebrew is Ptitim. It is a type of toasted pasta shaped like rice grains, developed in Israel in the 1950s when rice was scarce. The pearl-shaped version is known amongst English-speakers as "Israeli couscous". This is a misnomer because it is pasta and not couscous.
Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion asked the founders of the Osem food company in 1953 to devise a wheat-based substitute for rice. The company took up the challenge and developed Ptitim, which is made of hard wheat flour and toasted in an oven. Ptitim was initially produced with a rice-shape, but after its success Osem also began to produce a ball-shaped variety inspired by couscous.
But for here and now, we'll call Ptitim, Israeli couscous, it's what most people know it as.
For most of us growing up in Israel, Israeli couscous is considered "children's food". It is food that brings back memories from out childhood. We ate it plain for the most part. Flavored with a little salt and that was all!
Today Israeli couscous has gained much popularity and is sometimes used in dishes even at the "trendiest restaurants" in other countries. In the United States it can be found on the menus of contemporary American chefs, and can be bought in gourmet markets.
I love to make a variety of dishes with Israeli couscous cous. I buy the traditional one which is available in most grocery stores in the international food section but I also love a newer version of it which is mixed with orzo, lentils and baby chickpeas, all dried. I have added a link for both at the bottom of this page.
One last thing. The real couscous is made out of semolina and is often called Moroccan couscous in the United States.
So let's get started making my Israeli couscous!
2 cups of Osem Israeli couscous or Harvest Grains Blend mixed couscous. (Links are at bottom of page)
1 teaspoon Osem soup chicken flavored bouillon mix - this is a vegan soup mix. A (link at bottom of page) or 1 teaspoon salt. Adjust amount to taste
1 large onion chopped fine.
2-3 tablespoons olive oil.
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon black pepper
3 cups of water
Heat the olive oil in a wide deep pan. Add onions and cook until yellow in color and translucent.
Add the cumin, salt or soup mix, pepper and mix. Add the couscous and mix together while cooking for 2 minutes on medium heat. This first step of cooking it in the oil will ensure that your couscous will remain separated grain by grain and not stick together in clumps. That is how it is meant to be.
Add the water and bring to boil Lower heat and cook for 10 minutes ir until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is soft but not mushy. I like to fluff it loosely with a fork.
Serve immediately as a side dish or just like that! Add a home made Jerusalem Bagel to it and you have yourself a typical delicious Israeli meal!
And it’s not just for kids!