Israeli Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes

Israeli couscous is also known as ptitim. It was
 invented during the austerity period in Israel, when rice was scarce. (I was surprised to read it's mainly a children's dish in Israel. Certainly not the case here, where it's considered a "gourmet" item.) It's made of semolina pellets about the size of peppercorns. The little balls are much chewier than the smallest (Moroccan) couscous and holds up better to sauces- even in a cold salad—there's no mush. I read a quote recently comparing Israeli couscous to Moroccan couscous: " It's akin to the difference between steel-cut oats and quick-cook oatmeal, but maybe even more extreme." 

I had seen this recipe using Israeli couscous in Gourmet magazine, cut it out and then it languished in my file. When I recently walked into Williams Sonoma and saw a display of all three kinds of couscous, I remembered the recipe, bought the Israeli couscous and gave it a try.

The tomato vinaigrette was marvelous. Roasting tomatoes always gives them such a wonderful depth of flavor. I've done it many times to make my caprese salad, but it never occurred to me to make a vinaigrette with them. As it happened, I took this dish to a pot luck lunch. Nobody had ever eaten anything like it, everyone loved it and asked where to buy the couscous. They'd only made dishes with the Moroccan type. This was such a success, I'm going to try the Lebanese couscous next. Any favorite recipes out there?

Israeli Couscous with Olives and Roasted Tomatoes
Gourmet, September 2002


For roasted tomatoes and dressing:

2 pints red grape or cherry tomatoes (1 1/2 lb)
3 large garlic cloves, left unpeeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For couscous:

2 and 3/4 cups chicken broth
2 and 1/4 cups Israeli couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup Kalamata or other brine-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme


To roast tomatoes and make dressing: 

Preheat oven to 250°F. 
Halve tomatoes through stem ends and arrange, cut sides up, in 1 layer in a large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pan. Add garlic to pan and roast in middle of oven until tomatoes are slightly shriveled around edges, about 1 hour. Cool in pan on a rack 30 minutes. 
Peel garlic and puree with oil, water, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1/2 cup of the roasted tomatoes (reserve the rest) in a blender until dressing is very smooth. 

Make the couscous:
Bring broth to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan and stir in couscous, then simmer, uncovered, 6 minutes. Cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes. Spread couscous in 1 layer on a baking sheet and cool 15 minutes. 

Put it all together:
couscous to a bowl and stir in the olives, parsley,  mint and thyme, the dressing, the reserved roasted tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste. Serves 6.

Do ahead: Roasted tomatoes, dressing, and couscous can be made 1 day ahead and 
kept separately, covered and chilled. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.


  1. A great dish! So summery and delicious. I really have to go hunting for that couscous...



  2. I have a package of Israeli couscous in the pantry and, as you can see by my post today, roasted tomatoes are on hand as well. What a delicious sounding combination.


  3. I adore Israeli couscous, it sounds excellent with roasted tomatoes and olives!

  4. I also have some in my pantry, my daughter really likes it, but I keep forgetting about it. This looks like a great way to use it. I can get it in the bulk section from our local health food store, which is great if I need a cup I can buy a cup.

  5. Same, I have it in the pantry and haven't used it! The salad looks fantastic, I'll definitely be trying this one!

  6. I just don't care for couscous... Wonder if orzo would subsitute?

  7. What a wonderful beautiful dish. I prefer Israeli couscous because of the texture and it is more substantial than Moroccan. This is a perfect side dish to grilled lamb. I especially like that it can be prepared ahead, the flavors just get better.

  8. I too have some Israeli couscous in the pantry and I have plenty of tomatoes in the garden, so I'm good to go.

  9. I was craving something just like this and you created a recipe for me! Bless you!

  10. I really like Israeli couscous and glad to see it is becoming more available beyond "gourmet" stores. It's got a nice "bite" to it - not a pasta, but very sturdy.

  11. You just taught me something..I have and had never heard of this couscous..We eat a lot of couscous..rice..quinoa..
    I will look for this..And the whole recipe sounds absolutely delicious..Thank you.
    I wish we had a W-S..

  12. I've heard of Israeli couscous but never tried them. Looks utterly delicious. I'm loving all the flavours!

  13. I have bunches of cherry tomatoes that look like they are starting to ripen. This looks like a great way to put them to good use! (And I never knew there were different kinds of couscous!)

  14. This is exactly the type of recipe I look for during the summer. Perfect for picnics. I love that you added olives too. Bookmarking now.

  15. I love the texture of israeli couscous and I have a feeling the roasted tomatoes would really put this dish over the proverbial edge! Delicious!

  16. I remember reading that one's score went up exponentially in the marriage market by the quality of your homemade couscous. It was then I realized it wasn't made from an exotic grain but from wheat, sieved by hand. I guess the Israeli version could only be made by machine but I like the larger texture and admit to never having tried it... stuck in the wholewheat regular style rut. I really need to try this!

  17. ooh, i'd love to try this, there's just something about those big shiny pearls that looks so yummy! i love the flavors you incorporated into it. i hope you've been having a wonderful summer barbara!

  18. I love Israeli couscous....it is indeed very different from the regular stuff. And this recipe looks like a perfect backdrop for it. I mean, you really can't go wrong with tomatoes and olives.

  19. I could eat this for any meal of the day! I could eat a bowl of it right now in fact! Looks wonderful! :)

  20. We love Israeli couscous...and I am always looking for different recipes...yours look fabulous with Kalamata olives, tomatoes and the fresh herbs. Perfect for Summer!
    Hope you are having a wonderful week Barbara :-)

  21. I buy regular couscous but never the Israeli couscous. I will definitely pick some up. I just know my family would love this!

  22. I love the chewy texture of Israeli couscous. And, the roasted tomato dressing sounds fantastic with it. I'd never thought of making a dressing out of roasted tomatoes either!

  23. I made your recipe tonight! Delicious!

  24. I'm of the opinion that all other couscous except Israeli should never be served on my table. Love it.

  25. This one I can't wait to try Barbara! I also am going to send this to my daughter, she will love it.
    I also loved the apricot tart recipe. It seems I am in a rut making the same desserts time after time.
    This weekend all my children were home and we had quite a feast in the garden. The dutch oven chicken my husband made was wonderful. I made a few Summer salads, but the desserts were so-so.
    I am loving my Summer so far and I hope you are yours as well.
    sending hugs from here...

  26. Love the flavors going on in this bright, summery recipe. I love how Israeli couscous almost looks like little pearls...definitely makes it feel like a special dish!

  27. I love Israeli cous cous - I prefer it over Moroccan cous cous because of the bigger pearls. yummy!

  28. I like couscous in all its forms. I've prepared Israeli couscous with diced roasted squashes, onions, and peppers, stuffed into a bell pepper and baked. Yours looks so good--I like that hint of mint in it.

  29. Looks amazingly tasty!

  30. I seldom eat coucous. Not too keen on it. But yours looks very healthy, simple and delicious. I wish I can have a bowl to try. I'm sure I will like it . The dressing sounds very refreshing and delicious. Thanks very much for sharing.

  31. How interesting that it's a children's food! Now that you say that, I can see why, it would be a fun food for them.

  32. if i'm gonna eat couscous, i want it to be israeli couscous--i love the texture and toothsomeness (new word?) of it. great dish, barbara!

  33. We buy Palestinian whole durum wheat couscous - just because that's what's available here at our local free trade market - and it's so much better than the regular tiny couscous! Along with farro, it's our staple food in the summer.



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