To go with the Tunisian style grilled chicken kebabs, I made two light and refreshing vegetarian sides, one of which is also from Susan Feniger.

I’ve always wondered what the difference between Israeli couscous and regular couscous are, and through a quick search on wikipedia, I found out that they are related but quite different. Regular couscous are made from semolina, a byproduct of processing wheat. All the little bits of wheat leavings that are too small and fall through the machine are gathered together and made into fillers for pet food or semolina flour. Couscous is made from wetted semolina flour rolled into little bits of “pasta” and then dried for storage. Israeli couscous on the other hand is made from wheat flour, which is more refined than semolina, roasted in an oven. Ptitim, as they are called in hebrew, are larger in size than regular couscous, and were created as a rice substitute for a time in Israel when rice was scarce. I love reading about food on wikipedia because you end up going on some tangent that eventually leads you to some historical event in the region. History really does shape the way we eat and drink!

The pasta salad is composed of the Ptitim, sliced cherry tomatoes, and an arugula pesto. The first step is to blanch the arugula in a pot of boiling salted water. It only takes about 10 seconds to blanch the arugula, so quickly fish out the arugula using a slotted spoon, and transfer the greens into a colander, rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process.

Do not drain the hot water in the pot, instead let it return to a boil. Add the Ptitim to the boiling water.

After about 10 minutes, check the consistency of the ptitim, which should be al dente.

Drain the ptitim, and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toss the pasta with some olive oil so they won’t stick together, and let cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a small skillet until golden brown.

To make the pesto, squeeze as much water as possible from the blanched arugula, and dry them on a towel.

Add the arugula to a food processor along with the toasted pine nuts, chopped garlic cloves, grated parmesan cheese, and olive oil, and process until the pine nuts are finely chopped.

Season the pesto with salt and pepper.

Transfer the Israeli couscous into a bowl and toss in the pesto until they are evenly distributed.

Gently fold in chopped and halved tomato pieces into the dressed Israeli couscous and serve on a plate of greens.

I love this salad so much that I had it the next day for lunch. I combined the left over salad with a can of albacore tuna, and it was the best little home made lunch I’ve had in a while.

Susan Feniger’s Moroccan carrot salad comes with a spicy punch, which comes from the incorporation of harissa, a north african spice paste, into the dressing. Harissa can be found at central market or whole foods market in little tin cans. I never use a full can per recipe, so I keep the rest in a little plastic container which is good for at least a few months.

The harissa and lemon juice are whisked together in a bowl. Olive oil is slowly whisked in, and the dressing seasoned with salt and pepper.

The carrots are thinly julienned, and tossed with raisins and the dressing. At this point the dish can be made ahead of time by a few hours, and I would recommend letting the carrots chill in the dressing to marinate anyways.

Right before serving, fold in feta cheese, and chopped parsley.

The salad can be served as a side or as a coleslaw style topping on sandwiches and bbq meats.

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Spicy Lemon Dressing
Israeli Couscous and Tomato Salad with Arugula Pesto