Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts and Parsley

I have long been interested in Israeli couscous, but I had never really cooked it – for one, because it’s difficult to find. Trader Joe’s has started carrying it, though, and I have no doubt that it will become one of our starch staples. Though it’s probably not as healthy as whole-wheat regular couscous, it’s less messy (you can’t imagine the mess little kids can do with regular couscous), more attractive, and, most importantly, Mika really likes it.
Despite my inexperience with Israeli couscous, I felt it would be an ideal companion to the roasted rack of lamb I was serving. I wanted a side that would have a relatively soft flavor, so as to not compete with the lamb, that would be able to stand to the sauce I was serving with the lamb, and that would be good on its own. This recipe met all the requirements.
Indeed, I’m surprised at how it managed to be both quite simple and amazingly delicious. I ended up serving it as a 4th course, rather than a side, because my rack of lamb took forever to cook, and it actually worked pretty well on its own. I definitely ate a large plate of it. Those who waited say it also went very well with the lamb. My only concern with the recipe is how much butter it takes. When I make it again, I’ll try to reduce it to 3 Tbsp. and see if the results are noticeably inferior.
Toasted Israeli Couscous with Pine Nuts and Parsley

  • 5 Tbsp. butter
  • 2/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 large shallots, chopped
  • 16 oz Israeli couscous
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 3/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • black pepper

Melt 1 Tbsp. butter in a small pan over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts and cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
Meanwhile, melt 4 Tbsp. of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add shallots and saute until brown, about 10 minutes. Add the couscous, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Cook until the couscous browns slightly, about 5 minutes. Stir often.
Add the chicken broth and the salt and mix well. Bring the couscous to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat and simmer until the couscous is done and all the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Mix in the pine nuts and parsley. Add black pepper to taste.
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