Easy Lunch Recipe: Mediterranean Couscous
This is my go-to recipe for many reasons. It's extremely simple to make, and it's made with a lot of ingredients that I have on hand. Another great aspect of this dish is that it's easy to vary, so I never get bored. Working in a school, I typically have 30 minutes (on a good day) to eat my lunch while catching up on emails and writing reports. I need something that is versatile and requires little prep in order to satisfy my hunger during the day.
I've been making this for lunch ever since I discovered my love for Israeli couscous. It seems so simple that I never contemplated writing a recipe article about it until I started receiving a lot of interest on how to make it from coworkers and friends. Please enjoy this delicious, time-saving recipe. I hope that you will share your own variations with me so I can enjoy them, as well!
What Is Israeli Couscous?
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Israeli couscous is a type of pasta that originated in the 1950s in Israel. Also known as "ptitum," it is unique in flavor and simple to prepare. It's different from the couscous you normally see due to its size and taste. I personally cook it with chicken broth for added flavor; however, you can cook it with any liquid you want, including water and vegetable broth. You can find Israeli couscous in your local grocery store next to the pasta section.
- 2 cups Israeli couscous
- 2 cups chicken broth (or water, if preferred)
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
- 1/2 small red onion
- 1/2 jar marinated artichokes
- 1/2 jar kalamata olives, pitted
- 1/2 cup feta cheese
Step 1: Prepare the Couscous
As mentioned above, you can use chicken broth to cook your couscous for added flavor, or you can use another liquid based on what you have on hand or your individual preferences, such as water or vegetable broth. The instructions below involve toasting the Israeli couscous for increased flavor. This is not necessary, however, and you can opt out of this step if desired and combine the couscous and broth without toasting.
- In a saucepan or pot, heat 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the 2 cups of Israeli couscous and toast for approximately 6-8 minutes, while frequently stirring, until they have acquired a light-medium brown color.
- Add the 2 cups of chicken broth (or the liquid of your choosing) to the pot and bring the contents to a boil.
- After a boil has been reached, reduce to a simmer and cover the pot with a lid.
- Cook until the couscous is soft and all of the liquid has disappeared, approximately 9 minutes.
- When finished, transfer the couscous to a glass container and set aside to cool.
Step 2: Prepare the Remaining Ingredients
- While the couscous is cooking, chop the artichokes, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, and red onion roughly.
- Set them aside until you are ready to top the couscous.
- I like to separate these ingredients into individual containers until I'm ready to use them to allow me easy construction when putting together my lunch in the morning.
Step 3: Assemble the Meal
- The final step is to top the couscous with the chopped vegetables and feta cheese.
- Depending on how you're preparing this dish, go ahead and top the couscous with the chopped vegetables. If you are making individual containers for lunch, separate the couscous evenly into the number of containers you wish you make (I usually make about 3), and then scoop out and add the vegetables evenly.
- Next, add the remaining olive oil (around 2 1/2 tbsp, depending on how much you want) to the dish. Again, segment them according to how many containers you're using. Then add salt and pepper to taste, and finally add feta cheese to finish the dish.
In addition to this dish being versatile and easily varied, I like it because you can eat it hot or cold. In the summer, I find this dish refreshing when it's cold, and in the winter, I enjoy eating this hot or warm. It depends on my mood.
Substitutions and Notes
It should be noted that the ingredient list (above) may not be exact for everyone. I personally love kalamata olives, so I tend to go heavy on this ingredient when making this dish. Further, the ingredients listed can be substituted easily based on individual preferences.
The name "Mediterranean Couscous" was something I made up based on the ingredients I chose to use in this recipe. You can be creative, however, and include whichever ingredients you wish and think would pair well with the couscous. I am writing this recipe according to how I make this dish—however, as I mentioned above, this dish is extremely versatile. For example, a friend of mine whom I've passed this recipe along to makes hers with lemon juice and chickpeas. I imagine you could select other ingredients that I have not included based on your own preferences such as cucumbers, capers, mushrooms, roasted red peppers, hummus, etc.
Please feel free to share your comments, experiences, and own variations on this recipe in the comment section below.