Sounds good, right? This was a relatively simple weeknight dinner. Salty, sweet and savory all in one, against the backing of soft comfort that is ptitim. Also known as Israeli couscous (though only abroad — an Israeli would never recognize that name) or mograbiyeh (another name people here wouldn’t recognize), ptitim are toasted pasta bits — hence the Hebrew name, which means bits.
Ptitim are a quick comfort food generally made with sauteed onion and broth, but they’re also a great palate for lots of other flavors. To make a quick dinner, I sauteed my ptitim with onion and leek before cooking it all with a homemade vegetable broth, and then served it topped with pan-fried caramelized pumpkin and a grating of sheep’s bulgarian cheese, a rich crumbly white cheese similar to feta. This household had no complaints whatsoever.
For one big pot of ptitim (serves 4-6):
oil for frying
1 onion, chopped
1 smallish leek, chopped (200 grams or 1/2 pound)
400 grams/1 pound (one bag) round ptitim, also known as Israeli couscous
4 cups broth
1 teaspoon salt (less than I’d usually use, because the cheese is salty)
For the pumpkin:
oil for frying
750 grams pumpkin, chopped into 1-centimeter cubes
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Generous handful of chopped parsley
Sheep bulgarian cheese (similar to feta, but less salty)
On a medium flame, add enough oil to your pot to cover the bottom and add the onion and leek. Stir-fry the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they soften and brown slightly.
Add the ptitim to the pot and stir to incorporate. Let the ptitim brown for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once many of the ptitim are lightly browned, add the broth and salt. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the flame to low and let cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Once cooked, leave the lid on the pot for another 5 minutes or so to steam. Stir in a generous handful of chopped parsley.
While cooking the ptitim, put a frying pan on a medium flame and add enough oil to cover the bottom. Put the pumpkin in the pan with the sugar, spices and salt. Mix and let the pumpkin fry, stirring occasionally. The pumpkin is done once soft and the liquid has reduced into a thick syrup.
To serve, add a few spoonfuls of pumpkin to each bowl of ptitim and mi in a spoonful or two of grated cheese.