Couscous with Swiss Chard, Raisins and Feta Couscous with Swiss Chard, Raisins and Feta Couscous with swiss chard, raisins and feta is a great autumn recipe. (Photo: tracy benjamin / Flickr)

7 fall recipes for your Mediterranean diet

Israeli couscous goes perfectly with pumpkin and other harvest vegetables in these dishes.

Israeli couscous, also called ptitim or pearl couscous, pops up as an ingredient in lots of recipes this time of year, and no wonder – its round shape is perfect for simple-yet-elegant presentations of stuffings, salads and stews, and its pasta texture holds up against robust veggies and absorbs savory broths better than mere grains. Here are seven fabulous fall recipes featuring Israeli couscous and other Mediterranean diet staples, including chickpeas, olive oil and a variety of herbs and spices. We’ve even thrown in a bonus winter recipe at the end, because ‘tis the season to plan ahead!


Baked Stuffed Pumpkin

A delicious harvest mix of Israeli couscous, onion, apples and cranberries, this dish gets extra presentation points for being served in miniature hollowed-out pumpkins! This would be a great recipe to serve at a Halloween party, or to feed the kids before a night of trick-or-treating, since the fun factor will make them more likely to eat up (and hence less likely to fill up on junk). For a more health-conscious version, omit the Italian sausage or use chicken-apple sausage instead.


Israeli Couscous with Apples, Cranberries and Herbs

This “sweet, tangy and very exotic” salad is simple to whip up in the event that a “friend calls up and says 'I’m in the neighborhood and I’d love to stop by,’” says Giada de Laurentiis in the above Food Network video. Toasted almonds add crunch, while a simple vinaigrette made from apple cider vinegar and maple syrup bring out the fall flavors with a balance of sweetness and acidity. Flat-leaf parsley and other fresh herbs are easy to grow at home, making this an ideal recipe for when you don’t have time to go to the store.


Pumpkin and Chili Israeli Couscous

Another ptitim-and-pumpkin pairing, this vegetarian recipe creatively combines the spiciness of red chilies and onions with the sweet flavors of oranges and sultanas (raisins made from a large, white/green seedless grape known for its sweetness). If you can’t find sultanas in your local grocery store, try substituting dried apricots or dried cranberries instead.


Couscous with Swiss Chard, Raisins and FetaCouscous with Swiss Chard, Raisins and Feta. (Photo: tracy benjamin/Flickr)

Couscous with Swiss Chard, Raisins and Feta

This incredibly versatile recipe can be served cold, as a salad, or warm, as a side dish. And it's substantial enough for a vegetarian main dish – the chickpeas and feta give it plenty of protein and texture. Substitutions are easy, too – you can swap in kale for swiss chard, currants for raisins or goat cheese for feta. Just be sure to separate the stems from the leaves of the chard, since the stems need extra cooking time to get tender, while the leaves will wilt up in a hurry.


Pearl Couscous with Fall Vegetables and Caramelized Onions

Jalapeno peppers and harissa – a paste made from serrano, red and chili peppers – lend heat to this robust dish packed with healthy fall veggies, including zucchini, turnips, carrots and butternut squash. Easy-button tip: while butternut squash can be laborious to peel, dice and seed, you can save time by buying it already cubed at many grocery stores.


Israeli Couscous with Roasted Butternut SquashRoasted butternut squash can substitute for roasted pumpkin in most recipes. (Photo: Carmen/Flickr)

Pearl Couscous with Roasted Pumpkin and Medjool Dates

Medjool dates – exceptionally large, sweet dates grown in Israel – are paired with roasted pumpkin (or substitute any winter squash, such as butternut) in this tasty recipe. High in fiber, potassium and copper, medjool dates pack a nutritious punch and are considered a superfood. Cinnamon, cumin, parsley and cilantro lend herbal zing to this satisfying stew.


Autumn Couscous Salad

This “ode to Whole Foods Market’s Autumn Couscous Salad” combines butternut squash, cranberries and currants with the savory enhancers of sage, fennel and mild shallots. And though it’s a salad, it’s best served at room temperature or slightly warmed to bring out the fall flavors – which may be a relief if it’s not exactly feeling like summer salad weather where you are. The cranberries and sage would make this dish an excellent addition to a traditional Thanksgiving menu.


Bonus winter recipe: Israeli Couscous

We close with a colorful, festive dish that will take you through fall and right into winter – in fact, Gastrolab has it on their “Mediterranean Christmas Dinner” menu. In this video recipe, the chef toasts up red peppers and almonds, then adds Israeli couscous, dried apricots, scallions and pomegranate seeds for a beautiful array of colors that will look great on your holiday table. Bon appétit!

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