Lemon-Pistachio Israeli Couscous

There was so much excitement here at Casa Whatfoodimade this week.

I know you are wondering: “Why? What is happening over there? Please tell us!”

Okay. I understand that this may not be as exciting for you as it was for me. I got to try out two – count ’em, TWO – new ingredients: Israeli couscous and preserved lemons. Wow, right?

Not only that… I got to make the preserved lemons myself. More on that soon.

Israeli couscous is sorta like regular couscous, but bigger. It is also like regular couscous in the way it soaks up and carries other flavours. Like in this easy-to-make, colourful and tasty side dish.

Check it out.

Thank goodness I found the gluten free pistachios (that is sarcasm).

Pistachios, pre-shelling.

Some sampling occured while shelling these.

Shelled pistachios.

Decided on dried cranberries and…

Dried cranberries.

…dried apricots for the fruit component of this dish.

Dried apricots.

This is what raw Israeli couscous looks like. To cook it, I simmered the required amount in 1-3/4 cups salted water for 10 minutes, then drained it.

Israeli Couscous.

Grabbed some parsley and get it chopped.

Flat leaf parsley.

These are preserved lemons.

Preserved lemons.

After removing the flesh, the lemon peel was chopped.

Chopped peel.

Got the parsley, butter, dried fruits and pistachios into a bowl.

All the dried fruit plus pistachios, parsley and butter.

Got the preserved lemon peel and cinnamon into the bowl as well.

Add the lemon peel and the cinnamon.

Freshly ground black pepper and fleur de sel were added.

Salt and pepper are added.

Cooked couscous, drained and ready to add.

Couscous, cooked and drained.

All the ingredients were in the bowl which meant it was time to toss and serve:

Lemon-Pistachio Israeli Couscous.

Lemon-Pistachio Israeli Couscous.

From My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz and also here:

Lemon-Pistachio Israeli Couscous
Couscous Israélien au Citron et aux Pistaches

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Every year in Menton, a city near Nice that’s on the border of Italy, there’s a festival celebrating the famed Menton lemons. Plump and irregularly shaped, they’re seasonally available in Paris markets, with their leaves still attached. They are prized by chefs and cooks for their intense lemony flavor (without the harshness of commercial lemons), and their not-too-bitter pith, which makes them perfect for preserving.

This nutty, lemony salad makes good use of preserved lemons, which you can easily buy or make yourself (see my website for a recipe). I keep a jar on hand at all times. They take a few weeks to mellow and soften, so don’t save making them for the last minute. Their flavor is incomparable, and a jar will last for months in your refrigerator. Chopped-up bits can be tossed with olives for a quick apéro, and they also add an assertive citrus flavor to this dish made with pistachios and Israeli couscous.

Israeli couscous are little pearls of pasta, elsewhere called pastina, which means “little pasta,” and when toasted it’s known as fregola sarda. Since they have more substance, I think they hold up a little better to North African-style braised meats, like the lamb shank tagine, than traditional couscous. (Orzo is a good substitute for the Israeli couscous.) To change things around a bit, you can vary the dried fruit or swap in fresh mint or cilantro for the parsley. Another nut, such as toasted hazelnuts or almonds or even pine nuts, could be used in place of the pistachios.


1 preserved lemon
1/2 cup (30g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons salted or unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (80g) diced dried fruit (any combination of cherries, cranberries, apricots, prunes or raisins)
1/2 cup (65g) unsalted (shelled) pistachios, very coarsely chopped (almost whole)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 cups (225g) Israeli couscous or another small round pasta
Freshly ground black pepper


1. Trim the stem end from the lemon and cut it into quarters. Scoop out the pulp and press it through a strainer into a medium-sized bowl to extract the juices; discard the pulp. Finely dice the preserved lemon rind and add it to the bowl along with the parsley, butter, dried fruit, pistachios, salt, and cinnamon.

2. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the couscous and cook according to the package instructions. Drain and add it to the bowl of fruits and nuts, stirring until the butter is melted and all the ingredients are well mixed. Season with black pepper and serve.





11 thoughts on “Lemon-Pistachio Israeli Couscous

  1. Pingback: Quick ‘Preserved’ Lemons | what food i made

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