Pearl Couscous With Grilled Vegetables

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The first time I made this summer side dish was about ten years ago in my apartment in downtown Portland. I had a balcony with a tiny tabletop grill and could look out towards the city while I cooked. I originally meant for two separate sides of grilled veggies and couscous, but decided to combine them on a whim. I don’t remember the main dish I made with this, but the couscous made an impression on me, and it’s something I have made many times over the years.

I like pearl couscous in its most simple form, but it’s also a great canvas to build on. Here grilled vegetables, lemon, and plenty of parsley make it extra special. The olives are also very important to me. I prefer dry cured black olives here such as Black Beldi for their mild fruitiness, but I think the first time I made this I used Kalamata olives. My husband isn’t an olive fan, so generally when I make this now I just serve them on the side.

close up of pear couscous with grilled vegetables and olives

I prefer this warm or room temperature, but often eat it leftover cold like a pasta salad. This dish has grilled green onions, and I like most grilled vegetables both hot and cold, but in my opinion grilled green onions are not at their best when cold. Since the dish is good at room temperature, it’s a great one to make casually why you are grilling. Then you can enjoy it whenever your main dish is read.

Feel free to have fun with the grilled vegetables. My favorite are the green onions and peppers, but I’ve also included zucchini here. It would also be great with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, or even eggplant.

This recipe in intended as a side dish. It’s perfect with any grilled proteins. It could easily be turned into a main. I would double the veggies, and maybe throw in some leafy greens like arugula or spinach. You’ll need to add a little more lemon juice and olive oil. Serve it with a chunk of feta drizzled with olive oil for something extra-special.

Pearl Couscous With Grilled Vegetables (serves 8)

  • 2 cups pearl couscous (sometimes called Israeli couscous)
  • 2 oz olive oil, plus 1 T
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cups of water
  • kosher salt
  • 2 T Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch green onions, roots removed
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed, and cut into quarters
  • 1 medium sized zucchini, cut in half
  • 2 oz lemon juice, or more to taste
  • 1 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup dry cured black olives or drained brined olives
  1. Prepare the couscous. Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the 2 oz of olive oil. Toast the couscous with the garlic for a couple of minutes, stirring a few times. Add the water, Aleppo pepper, and season with salt. Bring to a boil. Stir gently so none is sticking to the bottom. Turn down the heat and cover with a lid until most of the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Spread out to cool on parchment lined sheet pan.
  2. Toss prepared vegetables in 1 T of oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill vegetables until lightly charred and tender. The green onions will cook the fastest. The bell peppers and zuchinni will take about 10-15 minutes depending on the temperature of your grill. Allow to cool. When they are cool to the touch, chop the zucchini into bite sized pieces. Chop the bell pepper quarters in half lengthwise and then into quarter inch strips. Cut the green onions into one to one and a half inch pieces.
  3. Combine the couscous with vegetables and lemon juice. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed or add extra lemon juice if you like a brighter lemon flavor. Toss in chopped parsley and olive and serve.

Try this as a side dish to Preserved Lemon, Sumac, and Herb Spatchcocked Chicken. It’s also great alongside a radicchio salad.

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