Israeli Couscous and Lentil Salad with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Gelee

Israeli Couscous and Lentil Salad with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Gelee Recipe

I think Israeli couscous and lentils are a great combination. Lentils are often eaten with rice, and couscous is really just a grain shaped semolina pasta, so it's a perfect replacement.  

I added a roasted red bell pepper gelée for texture and flavor. It is basically a red bell pepper and walnut caviar, un caviar de poivrons aux noix in French, that I mixed with a little agar so it would hold its shape when I stack the layer of lentils, bell pepper and israeli couscous in a circle cutter for a nice appealing presentation.


Yields: 8

3 Tbs blood orange syrup
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbs Horseradish mustard
5 Tbs Zinfandel vinegar, or any other white vinegar
1 tsp sea salt , as needed
5 tsp sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbs pickled garlic, finely crushed
1/2 cup walnut oil
1 1/2 tsp Himalayan pink salt, to taste
3 Tbs fresh fill, finely chopped, + extra for garnish
2 cup Israeli couscous, Pearl couscous
1 tsp sea salt, as needed
1 Meyer lemon , zested, freshly squeezed
1 small eggplant
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup walnut, dry roasted, chopped
1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned, seeded, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, roasted, skinned, sliced
1 Tbs Tabasco sauce, to taste
1 clove garlic, finely crushed
2 Tbs dill, finely chopped, + extra for garnish
1/3 tsp agar powder, or gelatin
1/2 cup water
1 cup French Green Puy lentils
1 tsp black peppercorns, freshly ground


For the vinaigrette: I used almost the same ingredients as the one used for my savory goat cheese panna cotta. In a bowl, dissolve one tablespoon of sugar in the Zinfandel vinegar. Add the mustards, blood orange syrup, salt and whisk in 3 tablespoons of walnut and 1/3 cup of olive oil. Add the pickled garlic. Season with salt and white pepper.

Pour the vinaigrette into the mixed vegetables and lentils mix. Plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until you're ready to serve.

For the Israeli couscous: Bring 1 quart of water to a boil. Add the Israeli couscous, bring the liquid back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 10-12 minutes total. Salt the water half way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and the pasta  will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so that the pasta does not stick to the bottom.  It may take longer than the cooking time that is written on the box. When the pasta is cooked (cooked inside and out but still in shape and firm), drain the pasta (do NOT rinse). Transfer the cooked pasta to a bowl. Add half the amount of the Meyer lemon juice and its zest. Season with salt. Let the Israeli couscous cool down to room temperature. Add about 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette. Mix well. Plastic-wrap the bowl, then chill in the refrigerator until the rest of the preparation is ready.

For the lentils: Wash the lentils. Discard any floating lentils and odd-shaped grains. Soak the lentils overnight. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the lentils, bring the liquid back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook the lentils for about 20-25 minutes total. Salt the water half way through the cooking process and keep stirring every now and then so that the lentils don't stick to the bottom. The lentils should be tender but still firm. Drain the lentils, then transfer to an iced bath for about 3 minutes to stop the cooking process. Drain and discard all the liquid. Add fresh dill and about 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette. Mix well. Plastic-wrap the bowl, then chill in the refrigerator until the rest of the preparation is ready.

For the eggplant pulp: Preheat your oven to 450°F. Slice the eggplants lengthwise in 2 pieces. Layer a cookie sheet on top of a cooling rack, then place the eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle with kosher salt and let the eggplant on the side for about 30 minutes. Pat dry with a kitchen towel. Place the 2 pieces of eggplant flesh down on a greased baking sheet. Bake the eggplant for about 15 minutes. The skin should be black and blistered. Remove from the oven, then cover with aluminum foil. Let the eggplant cool down for about 10 minutes. Gather all the pulp of the eggplant. Discard the skin, stem and seeds.

For the red bell pepper caviar: Blend the eggplant pulp, onion, 2 teaspoons of sugar, fresh garlic, Tabasco and the rest of the lemon juice into a food processor until the mixture is smooth. Add about 1/2 cup of olive oil. Add the sliced roasted bell pepper (reserve a little for decoration at the end) and the crushed walnut. Pulse about 3-4 times. There should still be chunks of bell peppers visible. Transfer to a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

For the red bell pepper gelée: In a bowl, dissolve the agar powder into 1/4 cup of water. In a small saucepan, heat about 1/4 cup water. As soon as the water in bubbly, add the dissolved agar and blend with a mini-whisk constantly for about 10 seconds. Remove from the heat. Add the agar mixture to the red bell pepper caviar. Mix well. Immediately start to assemble the dish.

Assembly time: Line up 8 salad plates. Place a circle cutter on each plate. Spoon a first layer of lentils. Place another layer of red bell pepper gelée. Then cover with a layer of Israeli couscous. Let the gelée set for about 10 minutes.

When serving, gently remove the circle cutter. Decorate with a few sprigs of fresh dill and slices of roasted red bell pepper on the side when you're ready to serve. 

Serve with a piece of baguette.

Bon appétit!

Couscous Lentil Salad


1 cup of lentils will expand to a little more than 2 cups after cooking. French Green Puy lentils were originally grown in Puy, in the mountainous region of France. Their texture is a lot firmer than the other varieties. It holds it shape better and is often used for this kind of dish.

Roasting bell peppers is pretty easy. Wash the bell pepper, pat dry, then brush with oil. Place a grill on your stove, then char all the skin of the bell pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Wash the bell pepper under running tap water, the skin will come right off. Seed it, then slice the bell pepper.

When you blend all the ingredients for the red bell pepper mixture, make sure to add the walnuts at the end so the dish still gets some crunch.

Agar agar powder is a good gelatin substitute for vegans and vegetarians. It is derived from seawood and is cooked the same way you would use gelatin powder. It is widely used in Asia.

Israeli couscous, also called Pearl couscus, is a grain-shaped pasta that keeps a firm al-dente texture when it is cooked. I usually cook this ingredient and serve it as a salad during summer time.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on April 26, 2009.


That looks so good! Great presentation! I like the sound of the lentil and Israeli couscous combo.

Kevin Website Link
[ Posted at 10:46 AM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
A beautiful recipe! I love the presentation!

Thanks for passing by!



Rosa Website Link
[ Posted at 11:30 AM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
That is a work of art. And photographed so beautifully I can almost taste it. I've never used agar agar before but have been tempted. Can you really substitute it for gelatin?

Dana Website Link
[ Posted at 2:10 PM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
[-] Gelatin - Jackie
Agar agar is a seaweed by product similar to gelatin. You can definitely use gelatin. Agar is just a great alternative for vegetarians who do not want to use animal (usually pork) gelatin in their dishes.
[ Posted at 2:44 PM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
[-] Beautiful! - Guest-lisaiscooking
It's so pretty, and this sounds delicious! Great dish.

lisaiscooking Website Link
[ Posted at 3:36 PM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
Oooh, this dish is so pretty and I'll bet delicious too! I love both couscous and green lentils are my favorites.

Thanks for your comment on my post. Log cookies always so handy, and they do bake up so well.

Love your profile, and I totally identify; with the eating preferences and allergies in my extended family menu planning can be quite tricky!

Nancy (n.o.e.) Website Link
[ Posted at 4:00 PM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
[-] Yum - Guest-Amy761
What a lovely and tasty sounding creation!

Amy Website Link
[ Posted at 4:14 PM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
Wow, this is beautiful! I've never seen anything like it before. I'm sure it tastes amazing too, I love pearl couscous.

Sara Website Link
[ Posted at 7:26 PM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
[-] Delish! - Guest-JacqueHutson
Wow, that is a very impressive dish, in looks AND taste.

All of your dishes looks so colorful and tasty.

Jacque Hutson Website Link
[ Posted at 8:25 PM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
This dish is so beautiful and your photography is stunning. Wow!

Dragon Website Link
[ Posted at 9:01 PM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
[-] Israeli couscous - Guest-CarolynJung
I just made Israeli couscous, too. But in contrast to your prettily plated one, mine was just piled on a plate with a big spoon. ;)
Obviously, I need to make mine more photogenic next time. Yours looks so delicious!

Carolyn Jung Website Link
[ Posted at 9:11 PM on 4/26/09 | Reply ]
MMMMM....looks really attractive & appetizing!
Great & lovely yummie food!
A beauty of a picture too!
You can come over & cook for me!

Sophie Website Link
[ Posted at 1:11 AM on 4/27/09 | Reply ]
Your blog is super. So are your photographies. They make me hungry. I have spent a nice moment when seeing them. Thanks a lot.

Eléonora Website Link
[ Posted at 2:35 AM on 4/27/09 | Reply ]
[-] gorgeous - Guest-JessicaFoodmayhem
Your dishes are always presented so beautifully and professionally!

Jessica@Foodmayhem Website Link
[ Posted at 9:07 AM on 4/27/09 | Reply ]
You definitely know how to appeal to a hungry person. This sounds like a truly delish dish.

The Duo Dishes Website Link
[ Posted at 9:43 AM on 4/27/09 | Reply ]
[-] cheffresco - Guest-cheffresco
Looks amazing! Beautiful pics and presentation!

cheffresco Website Link
[ Posted at 8:11 PM on 4/27/09 | Reply ]
This is just beautiful! I've used agar agar before but only in dessert - it never occurred to me to use it as 'support' element. Great idea! I've always wanted to try the 'stacking' effect but by the time I'm done cooking and getting ready to take pictures, my husband is starving and I'm pretty hungry myself! 8-)

Beautiful work!

Tangled Noodle Website Link
[ Posted at 5:10 AM on 4/28/09 | Reply ]
Hello! I made this the other night, and it was delicious! Tonight I am making it again for a dinner party, only I am adding carmelised leeks to the couscous layer. Thanks for a delicious (and fancypants!) recipe to impress my friends with! :D
[ Posted at 8:18 AM on 1/30/10 | Reply ]
Just a correction, it's not "Israeli Cous Cous".

It's Palestinian Cous Cous, or Levantine Cous Cous.
[ Posted at 6:00 PM on 8/12/10 | Reply ]
Searching for something fun to make with the Israeli Couscous that's been staring me in the face, peaking out of the pantry. Nice item you have here. Simple ingredients and I'm sure amazing taste- can't wait!

Lynn Website Link
[ Posted at 6:13 PM on 3/27/11 | Reply ]

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Banh Mi

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