Fig and Grilled Pear Israeli Couscous


Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Kitchen Gardener Cook 

 Many of us say yes...ahh those figs. While others seem to exclaim they’ve never eaten a fresh fig before. Well they are about to enter into the world of fig culture. Maybe if we ask enthusiastically Gene Sumi, HOmestead Gardens Guru can give us some background. Since I have purchased a couple of fig trees from Homestead Gardens, I know they carry a good variety and have printed information on the sweet, not so sweet, green to brown. 

I was ruminating on what dish to take to a very special participation dinner last Saturday and since I was assigned, starch, I thought of concocting an Israeli couscous dish brimming with local fruits of the late summer. My figs were abundantly drooping, anxious to be plucked and the pear tree yielded well this year, although they won't win a beauty contest, but alas...grilling them is heavenly! 

Fig and Grilled Pear Israeli Couscous 

Serves 8 

During the 7 years of weekly classes for the Annapolis School of Cooking, we came to adore the larger toasted Israeli couscous. We became familiar with it because Whole Foods sponsored our cooking school and we were able to experiment and work with unique products. Now this type of pasta is more readily available in markets. 

You may want to make the vinaigrette first and save that luscious elixir in the refrigerator. 





  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (found at Whole Foods and Mediterranean markets)
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium pears, cored and grilled, then chopped green apple, diced
  • 1 medium red onion, grilled and chopped
  • 1/1/2 cups fresh diced figs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh scallions, sliced very thin

Tarragon Vinaigrette: 

  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 2 medium cloves fresh garlic, very finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
  • 2 tablespoons spicy Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup olive oil

For the couscous: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium-high heat. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally until slightly browned and aromatic, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, covered, or until the liquid has evaporated. Transfer the cooked couscous to a large bowl and set aside to cool. When cool, add grilled pears, grilled onion and figs. Toss with enough vinaigrette to moisten lightly. 

For the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, zest and lemon juice, garlic, tarragon, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil until smooth and. 

Just before serving toss in the scallions saving a tablespoon to sprinkle over the top. 

Panna Cotta with Infused Figs 

Serves 6 

Panna cotta

  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup unsweetened whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1 1/4 cups plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Fig Topping 

  • 1 cup figs, halved lengthwise
  • 1 1/2  cups coarsely chopped fresh figs
  • 2 tablespoons honey or port wine (your choice)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped

Pour 2 tablespoons water into small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over water and let rest until softened, about 15 minutes. Heat 1 cup of the cream until just to boiling. Add the sugar and gelatin mixture and then let cool. 

Whisk the half and half, yogurt, and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Pour the gelatin mixture over and whisk together. 

Place the halved figs in the bottom of  a 1 quart bowl, cut side down and them gently pour in panna cotta and refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

To Serve: Run a knife around the rim of panna cotta to loosen. Invert onto a serving platter. For the remaining figs for  topping, mix all ingredients and pour over top of  unmolded panna cotta.

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