Pearled Couscous from Lebanon
Israeli Couscous/Pearl Couscous is a relatively new invention. In Israel, the dish is called ptitim, which translates roughly from Hebrew to “little crumbles.”
It was invented in the 1950s at the suggestion of David Ben-Gurion, then Prime Minister of Israel. Israel had just finished the War of Independence. Many new immigrants were arriving after the war from Europe. These new settlers depended on rice as a food staple in their cooking, but there were rice shortages. Ben-Gurion sought out an alternative to the traditional staple of rice that could be easily mass-produced. Ben-Gurion asked Eugen Propper of the Osem food company to come up with something that people could use instead. Osem came up with Israeli Couscous/Pearl Couscous/Ptitim, made originally in the shape of rice grains, as is Orzo pasta (it is still available in this shape today.)
Unlike the finely grained North African Couscous made of semolina, Israeli Couscous has larger granules, resembling tiny pearls, which are made of baked wheat. The result is a pasta-like product, which remains firm when cooked and has a delicious toasted wheat flavor, similar to the Sardinian pasta, fregola sarda.
In the 90s, the Israeli chef, Mika Sharon, who was living in New York, hosted the American chef and cookbook author Don Pintabona for dinner. He tried the p’titim and, shortly after, was serving it in his New York restaurant, calling it “Israeli Couscous.”
Because Israeli Couscous is made from wheat flour, and is vegetarian and vegan. Israeli Couscous also has a low glycemic index, making it a healthy and high-fibre food.
Perfect served cold and tossed with fresh herbs and a bright vinaigrette, or hot – warmed and served with some good quality cheese and roasted vegetables!