Israeli Couscous with Leek and Garlic

Israeli Couscous with Leek and Garlic

This is wonderful on its own as a side dish. The toasted pearls of couscous can also serve as a bed for an appetizer of poached artichokes, or even as an entrée with a hearty dollop of Cilantro-Walnut Pesto.


For the Couscous:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium leek, cleaned and minced (or in very thin half-rounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Israeli (pearl) couscous
  • 1 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1 heaping cup chopped California walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro-Walnut Pesto (optional, recipe follows)

For The Cilantro-Walnut Pesto:

  • 1 cup California walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 cup firmly packed cilantro (leaves and smaller stems)
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


You Will Need A Skillet With A Tight-Fitting Lid.

For The Couscous:

  1. Place a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet over medium heat and wait about a minute. Add the olive oil, and swirl to coat the pan.
  2. Add the leek pieces and a little salt, and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the leek is fragrant.
  3. Sprinkle in the couscous, a scant 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the garlic. Stir to combine, turn the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the couscous is coated and turning golden (5 to 8 minutes).
  4. Pour in the water, cover the pan, and turn the heat to low. Let it simmer 8 to 10 minutes, or until the couscous is tender. Fluff with a fork, add black pepper to taste, fold in the walnuts, and it’s ready to serve.

For the Cilantro-Walnut Pesto:

  1. Place the walnuts in a blender or the small bowl of a food processor, and grind to a coarse meal.
  2. Add the garlic, cilantro, and salt, and continue to run the machine until it becomes a uniform green paste (some light walnut texture is fine).
  3.  Run the machine while you drizzle in the oil. Transfer to a container with a tight fitting lid, and refrigerate until use.


This dish keeps and reheats well. If you are not planning to serve it right away, store it in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator (for up to 2 days), and heat in a microwave or in a covered pan in a 300°F oven just before serving. Hold off on adding the walnuts until just before serving.